5 things Ontario government should do for taxpayers in 2020

jasmine pickel

Jasmine Pickel.

Many Ontarians are struggling to get by.

A recent Ipsos poll revealed 48% of Canadians are $200 or less away from financial insolvency at the end of the month. But the last thing they need is more government because taxes are already the single largest expense for the average Canadian household.

Instead, here are five ways the Ontario government can help make life more affordable without increasing spending:

LOWER HYDRO BILLS — A recent report found residential consumers in Ontario pay 22% more for their electricity than the rest of Canada, and some businesses pay nearly 65% more! We’re in this situation because the former Ontario Liberal government signed a number of bad deals for renewable energy that locked us in above market rates.

Ontario can’t afford to continue down this path, so it’s time to cut our losses. This year, the government should use legislation to cancel (or at the very least, renegotiate) all remaining renewable energy contracts in the province to ease the financial burden on families and increase the province’s competitiveness.

LOWER GAS TAXES — What many Ontarians may not realize is that we pay five separate taxes every time we fill up at the gas station: the carbon tax, provincial excise tax, federal excise tax, provincial sales tax and federal sales tax. Cumulatively, these five taxes add 44 cents per litre to the price of gasoline. The federal and provincial sales taxes are charged on top of the first three, and all are paid with after-tax dollars. Ouch.

In the last election, Premier Doug Ford promised to reduce gas prices by 10 cents per litre by eliminating the former government’s cap-and-trade program, and by reducing the provincial excise tax. His government made good on the former, but the federal carbon tax quickly erased any savings Ontarians would have enjoyed. Ford should continue to fight the carbon tax, and should also keep his promise to reduce the provincial excise tax by 5.7 cents.

BALANCE THE BUDGET AHEAD OF SCHEDULE — Originally, this government promised to balance the budget by 2023. As it turns out, the 2018 budgetary deficit was half of what was expected, and the government is on track to shave a further $1.3 billion off its 2019 projection. Given these developments, it stands to reason that the government can and should return to balance sooner than 2023.

How will this help taxpayers?

Debt today means taxes tomorrow, and shrinking the debt will mean savings. Every day, the Ontario government spends over $35 million of our money on interest payments. That means $12.9 billion worth of tax dollars down the drain this year that could have stayed in taxpayers’ pockets.

END CORPORATE WELFARE — There’s a practice whereby the government takes money from people — even from those who are struggling — and hands it over it to profitable corporations. It’s called taxpayer-funded corporate welfare, and it needs to end in Ontario.

A recent example includes the current government giving Maple Leaf Foods $35 million for a new facility (before it eliminated 300 jobs), but corporate welfare is a longstanding, multi-partisan issue in Ontario. The current government would stand to gain major political points if it put an official end to the unfair and ineffective practice once and for all.

DON’T CAVE IN SALARY NEGOTIATIONS WITH GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES — Numerous reports have confirmed what Ontarians already know: that government employees get paid more, retire sooner, and have better benefits and pensions than their comparable non-governmental counterparts. When so many Ontarians are teetering on the brink of financial insolvency, it’s unconscionable to think the teachers’ unions are taking legal action against the government for legislation that would give the more than 10,000 teachers currently earning more than $100,000 per year a $3,000 raise over the next three years.

Ontarians value and respect teachers, but we can’t afford to go further into debt or to pay more in taxes to give already well compensated government employees an even bigger raise.

— Jasmine Pickel is interim Ontario director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation

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