COMMENTARY: Ontario Liberals need to attack the NDP’s ‘job-killing’ agenda
An NDP government. Think about that for a moment, because it’s what Ontarians could vote into office a little over two weeks from now.
As I have written in my previous two columns for Global News, Liberal campaign strategy has successfully turned this election into a referendum on Doug Ford and the verdict is in. Polls are showing that over two-thirds of voters reject his vision. While the Progressive Conservatives still have a plurality of support in some surveys, current trends suggest it is looking increasingly difficult for them to win.
WATCH ABOVE: New Ipsos poll puts NDP in slim lead heading toward Ontario election
First, their level of province-wide support is skewed upwards because they enjoy a huge lead in rural areas of the province where Ford’s team already holds the bulk of seats. Winning these areas by 20 per cent as opposed to five per cent doesn’t get them any more seats in the legislature.
If one were to remove rural areas from survey samples and only poll urban and suburban parts of the province (areas that contain the bulk of the so-called “swing ridings”) their level of support would be lower.
Second, the PCs have seen a gradual but steady decline in support (as high as 50 per cent in some pre-campaign province-wide surveys), coupled with a marked increase in negative perceptions of their leader. In Ontario, it has historically proven difficult to win a majority government with this level of downward momentum mid-way through a campaign.
The challenge for Liberals is that much of the support that has bled away from the Conservatives has parked itself with Andrea Horwath, creating some real momentum for the NDP in the first half of the campaign.
The most recent polling from Ipsos suggests that if an election were held today, the NDP would have about 37 per cent of the vote province-wide. This is the same level of support that propelled them to a majority government in the 1990 provincial election.
What’s more important than the overall polling number is where the NDP appears to be doing well. If the Ipsos numbers are accurate, the NDP currently enjoys narrow leads in seat-rich regions like the 905 and southwestern Ontario, while coming in a close second in the City of Toronto and central Ontario. While they may not be there yet, if the current momentum continues, they could be headed for victory. And that would have serious consequences for this province.
The good news for Liberals is that the bleeding appears to have stopped and poll numbers seem to have solidified in the low- to mid-20s. It is now incumbent upon Grits across Ontario to remind their neighbours of what the consequences of an NDP victory are, and what they could mean for their livelihoods and well being of their families.
We have seen this movie before. The NDP government of the early 1990s shepherded in job-killing tax increases and other policies that drove the provincial unemployment rate to a peak of 11 per cent and saw a large outflow of capital from the province.
But as I wrote last week, many of today’s voters don’t remember, weren’t born yet, or did not live in Ontario during this era. Liberals need to do more than just point to the bad old “Rae Days.”
The current NDP campaign offers plenty of evidence that it is just not ready to manage an $800-billion economy. For example, the NDP is proposing a property tax change that would see an average 28 per cent tax increase on businesses of all sizes. They are also proposing significant increases to income taxes.
The net effect of these changes will be to prevent new business investments like we have recently seen from the likes of Google and Toyota, while driving up the unemployment rate which is currently at a 20-year low.
But the NDP’s job-killing agenda doesn’t stop there. It was recently revealed that the party promised in writing to mothball the Pickering nuclear power generating station by this August.
As a result of this decision, 4,500 blue collar workers could be out of work in Durham region in just three months. The decision is also grossly irresponsible because it will prematurely remove a large source of emissions-free energy from our grid and threaten the global supply of medical isotopes.
Furthermore, the NDP has also demonstrated a lack of competence through the course of the first few weeks of the campaign. It released a platform that contains a major costing error worth about $7 billion over the course of a mandate. It couldn’t be bothered to admit this mistake until Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer, called the party out on it. Yet even now the NDP will not say how it will fill the $7-billion hole. Will it be through larger deficits or even further tax increases? Nobody knows.
I have to be honest. Ontario Liberals face an uphill battle over the next two weeks. Winning at this point won’t be easy, but it is not impossible. We have a record to be proud of.
WATCH ABOVE: Election panel weights in on controversies
The Liberal record includes driving strong economic and job growth that enables investment in a care agenda including making pre-school free for all families so that more women can enter the workforce, expanding prescription drug access so patients don’t need to choose between food and medicine, boosting the minimum wage so that people working full-time jobs don’t need to rely on food banks and making tuition free for over 230,000 college and university students so that how much money your parents make doesn’t dictate where you end up in life.
All of this progress is placed at risk by NDP job-killing policies.
We have done our job and convinced a majority of Ontarians to reject the Doug Ford vision. It’s now time to convince the two-thirds of voters who fall into the progressive camp that we are the only responsible alternative to Doug Ford. The election is June 7. We have 15 days to get it done.
Omar Khan, who spent over a decade working for several Liberal cabinet ministers at Queen’s Park, is a member of the Ontario Liberal campaign steering committee and is a vice president of the Ontario Liberal Party.
Omar Khan joins Deb Hutton and Tom Parkin on Global News’ regular political panel, appearing on Global Toronto and AM 640 Corus radio throughout the campaign and as part of our election night coverage.