Tim Hudak delivered a pretty smooth performance at the Ontario Leader’s Debate on Tuesday June 3. He sounded like he presented a strong economic plan that would create 1 million new jobs, balance the budget, fire 100,000 civil servants, and cut taxes for wealthy corporations. But I thought he was a little too smooth.
A key part of his campaign promise is to create 1 million new jobs in 8 years. And this sounds impressive, but it really isn’t a big promise. That’s because it’s been done before – twice. Between 1982 – 1990 and 1998 – 2006, Ontario added 1 million new jobs. The growth was more impressive back then because Ontario’s population was 10-20% smaller. And this growth had nothing to do with tax cuts.
Hudak says cutting corporation tax rates will provide companies with the cash to hire new employees. But will corporations really step up to the plate? Most of the evidence says that’s doubtful. First, corporate profits are already healthy and strong. But companies aren’t flooding the market with job ads. Who is to say whether these “savings” from the tax cuts will be used to line the pockets of upper management, or will be re-invested into hiring new staff members. Can Hudak guarantee this? Probably not.
In reality, corporations can do whatever they want with their money, including increase salaries and benefits for their senior executive team. Why should a part-time civil servant who makes $20 an hour lose their job so executives from a big corporation can award themselves with an undeserved bonus? This won’t stimulate the economy, unless Tim is focused on pumping the luxury goods market.
Another key plank in Hudak’s platform is to fire 100,000 provincial civil servants to balance the budget. But many researchers and economists don’t believe his cuts to the civil service will provide him with enough money to balance the budget. He will have to cut more – a lot more. Naturally, Hudak didn’t want to expand on this during the debate. Deep cuts in health, education and social services will be needed to pay for his corporate tax cuts.
Throughout the debate Hudak promised over and over again that he wouldn’t cut spending on essential services Ontarians rely on, like healthcare and education. Hudak made an emotional speech about the support his autistic daughter receives from our education system. But under Tim’s plan, many autistic programs would be shut down or seriously downsized. What makes an autistic program strong are qualified teachers and teaching assistants who can supervise these special needs students. You can buy all the textbooks in the world but you need people to supervise and teach.
One big concern I did have about the debate was how there was little discussion on healthcare. None of the party leaders discussed the importance of protecting our publicly-funded, universal healthcare system. Even though Hudak has promised not to cut health funding or staff, his former boss Mike Harris made the same promise and ended up closing 28 hospitals. Wynne and Horwath should have forced Hudak to address this issue.
Hopefully, with a week left before Ontarians go to the polls, voters should take a good, hard look at Hudak’s slick and smooth presentation. They need to know his economic plan doesn’t add up. He won’t create a million new jobs. Instead, he will probably create incredible turbulence for millions of Ontarians.