What if you called an election and there were no taxes left to cut? For a party that bases its entire appeal to the electorate on its ability to reduce what it still insists on calling “the tax burden,” that would be the ultimate nightmare for Ontario’s Tories. This election comes close to that kind of nightmare, with the Tories being reduced to offering three new tax credits, while arguing that a failure to implement them would amount to “increasing your taxes.”

The Tories say they have cut taxes 225 times. In Toronto, The Star, part of the news media that the Tories say is “aligned against” them, puts the number at 228. I’m not going to challenge either number or try to figure out which is correct (largely because I can’t be bothered to count them), but I would encourage Ontarians to be as careful with the latest offering as they should have been with all the previous tax cuts. Clearly, there are substantial costs to tax cuts, costs that can be measured in services lost, capacity to govern lost, public accountability lost, and even lives lost. As voting day approaches, let’s measure the true impact of the latest round of goodies being offered by the Tories.

The private school tax credit

Initially announced with no input from the minister of education, the private school tax credit was the brainchild of Jim Flaherty, then-minister of finance and later, Premier Ernie Eves’ chief rival for the Tory leadership. During the leadership campaign, Eves described the tax credit as “ludicrous”, noting that private schools are not required to teach the Ontario curriculum and have no public accountability. While Eves initially moved to delay implementation of the credit, he was eventually trained to say what he was expected to say as heir to the Common Sense Revolution. The tax credit is now back on — if the Tories get re-elected.

This tax credit is just wrong, on so many levels. It would further fragment an education system that already has to carry the weight of two different school systems. It would undermine efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in our schools and our society. And, perhaps most significantly, it would drain up to $700 million a year from the public treasury once fully implemented. That’s money that could be spent on public education — in keeping with the Rozanski Commission’s recommendations for $2 billion more in funding — or in other services to the public.

The seniors’ property tax credit

The tab for this proposed tax credit is estimated at another $450 million.Ostensibly a reward to all seniors for years of hard work, it is really adifferent kind of reward — one that is primarily targeted at a smallminority of upper income seniors. Seniors who are tenants won’t see a pennyof it. Lower income seniors who own homes already qualify for the existingproperty tax credit, and they won’t benefit either. Seniors that I’ve talkedto don’t object to paying for their grandchildren’s education, any more thantheir grandchildren should object to paying for health care for the elderly.Trying to drive a wedge between citizens on the basis of age is politics atits worst.

If the Tories really wanted to help seniors, they would protect pensionsfrom inflation, prevent employers from raiding pension surpluses, and letpeople who move from one job to another take their pension with them. Theywould keep home care fees from increasing any further. They would reinstaterent control, so that seniors who rent could be protected. The fact thatthey are not doing any of these things should tell you which party it isthat really “has something against seniors.”

The mortgage deductibility tax credit

The partial deductibility of mortgage payments is being promoted as a way ofallowing new homebuyers into the market. In reality, it will inflate analready overheated housing market and make it even harder for first-timebuyers to afford a home. That’s why Britain finally scrapped what was leftof its own disastrous mortgage tax credit three years ago. It will solelybenefit homeowners — who already enjoy significant financial advantages onboth the property tax and capital gains taxes — at the expense of tenantswho, studies show, are increasingly on the wrong end of a growing incomedivide.

My fellow homeowners and I won’t see that much benefit for the credit; estimatessuggest that we’ll save approximately $2 a week at first. But, onceimplemented to the extent promised, it will put another massive $700 milliondent in the province’s budget. Personally, I’d rather have health care thatmy family can depend on; I’d rather have smaller classes for my children;and I’d rather have a government that doesn’t feel the need to bribe voterswith phony tax cuts every time we have an election.


Scott Piatkowski

Scott Piatkowski is a former columnist for rabble.ca. He wrote a weekly column for 13 years that appeared in the Waterloo Chronicle, the Woolwich Observer and ECHO Weekly. He has also written for Straight...