Ontario’s NDP — the first party to release its full platform for the June 2 election — is promising pharmacare plus mental health and dental care on top of a tax freeze for low- and middle-income earners across the province.
However, the ambitious plan — which has a heavy emphasis on health care — is not fully costed, with the party saying it is awaiting this week’s provincial budget and subsequent auditor’s report before releasing full financial details.
This platform “works for people,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Monday. “We’re not promising the moon and the stars — we’re promising that we’re going to work for you … It’s a solid, doable plan that means hope is on the way.”
The party’s election platform includes making the long-term care system fully public and not for profit, with 50,000 new beds over the next eight years and increased funding for hospitals, which have been hit hard by the pandemic and are facing backlogs for procedures.
As reported by the Star’s Robert Benzie, the NDP is looking at freezing taxes for the next four years for individuals earning around $200,000 — and likely about $250,000 per household — while raising taxes for top income earners and corporations.
An NDP government would also boost access to counselling and therapy and make it publicly funded, and address long waitlists for children’s mental health. In total, the NDP estimates its universal mental health care plan would cost $1.15 billion a year when fully implemented.
It would also move ahead with pharmacare and dental care, saying the federal government’s plans on those items are years away. The party says it would spend $475 million annually on pharmacare at the outset, on top of the $60 million it has already pledged to cover birth control.
Political scientist Nelson Wiseman called pharmacare the “shiny jewel in the window.” He said the NDP pledge to get going immediately with $475 million a year is a way to ensure it gets off the ground and expanded each year.
“We’re going to get started right away” on pharmacare, Horwath said at the release of the platform in Toronto’s downtown Distillery District on Monday morning, surrounded by candidates and union representatives.
If the federal government “is taking a bit longer, we’re not going to slow down,” she added. “We’re going to make sure that people have access to the prescriptions they need, as soon as possible.”
The NDP platform also includes boosting hospital funding by 3.5 per cent, hiring 10,000 personal support workers and 30,000 nurses, and recruiting 400 doctors and specialists specifically for northern Ontario.
The NDP would also bring back full rent control, putting an end to large rent hikes when new tenants move in.
On the education front, it would hire 20,000 teachers and education workers, and cap class sizes at 26 in full-day kindergarten, and 24 from Grades 4 to 8. It would also scrap full-scale, standardized testing, instead looking at a random sampling across the province.
For post-secondary students, the NDP would return to the previous Liberal government’s large-scale grant or “free tuition” system for lower- and middle-income students, with a longer-term plan to convert all student loans to nonrepayable grants.
That system was scrapped when the Progressive Conservatives came to power in 2018, and replaced it with a 10 per cent tuition cut and subsequent tuition freeze.
The NDP, PCs and Liberals have all promised hikes to the minimum wage, and the NDP and Liberals are both looking at four-day workweeks.
Wiseman, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Toronto, said while it is unusual for a party to release its platform before an election campaign formally begins — the Ontario race officially gets underway on May 4 — he doesn’t think the lack of firm costing would make much of a difference to voters at this point.
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