EDITORIAL: Standing up for taxpayers at Queen’s Park

Life keeps getting harder under Ontario’s Liberal government. Many Ontarians and small businesses are already struggling to pay the bills. But that hasn’t stopped Kathleen Wynne from driving up the cost of living and doing business in the province.

Ontarians can’t take much more. That’s why I have made it my focus to protect your pocketbook. As your MPP and in my role as Ontario PC Environment Critic, I have worked hard to represent your interests at Queen’s Park.

Take the Liberals’ Waste-Free Ontario Act. This law, which was passed on June 9, gives the government the ability to eliminate eco-taxes, which you and I pay when we buy a new TV, tires or a can of paint. The unfortunate part of this piece of legislation is that it doesn’t include any guarantees that the Liberals will actually scrap eco-taxes.

To address this loophole, I worked with the government to strengthen accountability in this legislation by putting forward several critical amendments. The most important PC change that the Liberals adopted was a requirement that the Environment Minister must report to the Legislature every year on the government’s progress toward eliminating eco-taxes. Thanks to this important improvement, lawmakers now have the tools necessary to ensure the Liberals actually follow through on scrapping their eco-tax programs.

I’ve also been pressing the Liberal government to phase out Ontario’s temporary Drive Clean program. I am sure you remember when the Liberals said they had scrapped the Drive Clean fee, and they were no longer making money off the program. Well, that’s not the case. I discovered that the Liberals had been, once again, misrepresenting the facts. By the Liberals’ own admission, the program has accumulated $11 million in profits, and there is no firm timeline to eliminate the fee.

The bottom line is it’s time to stop tinkering around the edges of this program. Drive Clean wasn’t set up to be a permanent cash-grab for the Liberals. It was set up to be a temporary measure to get domestic smog under control until vehicle emissions technology caught up. That’s now happened. More than 95% of cars pass the emission testing. So it’s time to phase out this temporary program – once and for all.

As you’re probably aware, the government is setting up a cap-and-trade scheme that will increase the cost of everything you buy – from gas and groceries, to electricity and home-heating. The Liberals are planning to raise nearly $2 billion dollars every year by charging you more money for your gasoline and home-heating.

In fact, once this scheme starts on Jan. 1, 2017, you will be forced to pay $160 more a year for gas and home-heating, and nearly $900 more a year by 2030, according to private-sector estimates.

In an effort to help families and businesses prepare for these price increases, I have continued to call on the Liberals to produce estimates on how much their cap-and-trade scheme will cost Ontarians overall. Yet they refuse to disclose the total cost impact.

Instead, the Liberals unveiled their Climate Change Action Plan this month, which will increase costs for taxpayers and businesses even more. Among many drastic measures, the Liberals plan to subsidize electric cars to the tune of $14,000. I say if you can afford a $100,000 Tesla, you don’t need a $14,000 subsidy from the government – that’s funded with your and my tax dollars.

What’s worse is the Liberals have kept their plan to ban natural gas in new homes by 2030. They’ve just changed the talking point from a “phase-out” to “carbon neutral homes.” The Liberals are now trying to hide their plans. But the truth is they must cut natural gas usage nearly in half in just over 13 years to meet their climate goals. Cutting off natural gas will increase the cost of a new home by $150,000 and raise heating bills by more than $3,000 every year. These price increases will put home ownership out of reach for many Ontarians and hurt the province’s real estate market.

The extent of the Liberals’ waste and mismanagement continues to astound me. Whether it’s the billion dollars they wasted on the gas plant scandal, or the fire sale of Hydro One, or the failed Green Energy scheme that continues to plague our communities. Rest assured, I will continue to stand up for your interests at Queen’s Park because we know this Liberal government will not.

– Lisa Thompson, MPP for Huron-Bruce

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