June 6, 2018 5:30 pm

COMMENTARY: Liberal MPPs needed to keep next government on ‘short leash’

Ontario Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne joined The Morning Show on Wednesday and was asked if she regretted conceding the race, less than a week before Ontario's election.


Thursday is voting day in Ontario and it’s one of the most crucial elections in decades.

The only thing that is clear at this point is that the Ontario Liberal Party will not win and Kathleen Wynne will no longer be premier. But Liberals working on local campaigns need to keep their energy levels high and stay motivated because so much depends on the outcome of the vote.

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Ontario is better when there are moderate, reasonable and pragmatic voices in the legislature. That’s why local Liberal volunteers need to keep fighting to have as many Liberals elected as possible and ensure that neither Doug Ford nor the NDP are able to govern with impunity.

Both parties must be denied a majority government so that a strong centrist bloc of Ontario Liberal MPP’s can keep the government on a short leash.

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One reason this is important is because we know that candidates for both Ford and Andrea Horwath have shown that they aren’t averse to some extreme positions.

We have seen past comments from some Progressive Conservative candidates that are derogatory towards Muslims and same sex couples. We have also seen past comments from some NDP candidates that are racially charged, compare Canadian soldiers to war criminals, and brag about being arrested.

In addition to sticking by such questionable candidates, Ford and Horwath have also made platform commitments that should alarm all moderate and reasonable Ontarians — even if they are looking for change.

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For starters, Ford has promised to cut about $6 billion in spending by finding so-called “efficiencies” within government. That’s code for cuts. The last time Ontario Conservatives were in government and talked about “efficiencies,” they closed 28 hospitals and fired 6,000 nurses.

So what will they cut this time?

Let’s take the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, for example, whose share of the $6 billion would be about $2.5 billion because it represents about 42 per cent of all government spending. Where would Ford find $2.5 billion? Well, he could cut 25,000 bedside nurses, according to an open letter to Ford by the Ontario Nurses Association.

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Economists Mike Moffat and Jim Stanford have estimated that Ford’s cuts would lead to between 40,000 and 70,000 direct job losses. Former governor of the Bank of Canada David Dodge has said that this level of cutbacks could not be accomplished without significant job losses.

This means that Ford cannot keep this promise without gutting core public services and laying off tens of thousands of Ontarians.

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The NDP isn’t much better. Their platform is promising to raise personal income taxes on anyone making more than $220,000 per year, raise all corporate taxes at a time when they are being reduced in the United States and hike business property taxes by an average of 28 per cent on all Ontario businesses, regardless of whether or not they are making any profits. Let’s be clear, if they are allowed to do this, jobs will be lost and businesses will close down.

These types of ill-advised tax grabs will weaken an economy that has been leading the industrialized world in economic growth under the leadership of Ontario Liberals. We have seen this movie before. The last time the Ontario NDP had the keys to government at Queen’s Park, Ontario had the highest income tax rates in North America and saw a massive outflow of investment capital that, in part, was responsible for driving the provincial unemployment rate up to 11 per cent.

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Lastly, the NDP have promised never to invoke back-to-work legislation. Never. Ever. Even if there is a garbage strike in the dead heat of summer. Even if there is a transit strike for weeks in Toronto. Even if York University students have to wait weeks or months more before they can return to class. This position of theirs is based on an outdated and rigid left-wing ideology of the 1970s and doesn’t put the public interest first.

This is what is at stake in this election. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Voting in as many moderate Ontario Liberal candidates as possible would mean that Ford won’t have the votes necessary in the legislature to cut $6 billion in services and potentially fire 25,000 nurses. Holding the NDP to a minority government would mean that job-killing tax hikes can be blocked and that the public interest can be served in the event of prolonged labour disputes.

Ontario Liberals will be punished Thursday by losing government for the first time in 15 years.

Voters should not punish themselves by electing a Progressive Conservative or NDP majority government that will have a blank cheque to do as they please.

Change is coming … but let’s keep it on a short leash.​

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.

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