Home-care guarantee, drop in auto insurance rates and corporate ‘loopholes’ priorities for NDP: Forster

By Jeff Blay, Thorold Niagara News

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The NDP is hoping to spark some conversation on several key issues heading into spring, says Welland MPP Cindy Forster.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath recently announced her party’s list of “priorities” for the new spring session of Kathleen Wynne's minority Liberal government.

The NDP is pursuing a 'home-care guarantee' for seniors, a drop in auto insurance rates throughout the province, and ending corporate tax 'loopholes'.

Forster says the party is looking for a big push this year since it was left out of the last budget talks. After a series of roundtable consultations the NDP hosted across the province, Forster and her fellow MPPs helped identify the three major priorities for Ontario moving forward.

“We had no input whatsoever into the last budget, so this time, there’s an opportunity for us to put forward what we think are some of the priorities of typical families and people that live in Ontario,” Forster said. “You’re trying to figure out ways to get some of the things we believe people in Ontario want and need.”

The home-care guarantee would make it a requirement that seniors get the services within five days.

“In some places in this province, some people are waiting up to 260 days to get that service,” Forster said. “It’s something that people could really rely on if they had a guarantee.”

The NDP is also asking that the Financial Services Commission be mandated to bring down auto insurance rates by 15%.

They say that would bring down the average premium to $1,279 from $1,505, which would allow an average Ontario driver to keep an extra $226.

According to Forster, the Insurance Bureau of Ontario cut healthcare benefits pertaining to auto accidents in 2010. Unless you have a catastrophic injury, which the bureau determines at its discretion, you won’t get the same benefits as you would have in the past, but your still paying the same premium.

“Even though the benefits got cut and the insurance companies paid out millions and millions of dollars less in benefits, they didn’t reduce their premiums,” Forster said. “In fact, Ontario has one of the highest insurance rates in the country, if not the highest.

“We think this (reduction) would certainly make life more affordable for many people living in this province.”

Forster says another key priority of the party is rejuvenating the young workforce and balancing the provincial books – $11.9 billion overdrawn this year – which should be done in a way that doesn't impact public services.

“We know healthcare and jobs in the economy are very important and the budget needs to be balanced, but we want to do that in a thoughtful way that actually supports people,” she said.

Ending corporate tax “loopholes” for expenses such as entertaining and an end to a payroll tax exemption for large businesses would free up some funds to invest in other important areas, Forster says.

“We’re suggesting creating a tax incentive for employers to hire people between the ages of 17 and 26 with the hopes of keeping them on beyond that six month period,” she explained. “The way we would fund that is by closing corporate tax loopholes.

“Businesses actually get to write things off like your luxury box at the Sky Dome (Rogers Centre) or a thousand dollar dinner for taking your clients out. They get to write all those things off but the average person doesn’t.

“We’re saying close those loopholes and business can do without them.”

Premier-designate Wynne is looking for support from the opposition benches, and NDP leader Horwath is likely her best option to strike a budget deal and keep her minority government alive, though Wynne has yet to comment on whether she would consider adopting the NDP proposals.

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