02.07.2011 04:38 PM

Somewhere, Rocco Rossi is examining the refund policy on the back of his Ontario PC card

Hudak flips on future of Ontario health tax four days after saying he’d keep it

Feb 7, 2011 16:23

By Keith Leslie

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO – Eliminating Ontario’s health-care tax is under consideration for the Progressive Conservative campaign platform, leader Tim Hudak said Monday, just days after he vowed not to cut the premium.

Hudak put out a news release last Thursday calling Health Minister Deb Matthews a “liar” for suggesting the Tories planned to cancel the health tax of up to $900 per worker, which brings in $3 billion a year.

“Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak has been very clear. If elected premier, he would not cut the health tax or Ontario’s health-care budget,” said the Feb. 3 Tory news release under the banner: “Minister of Health Lies to Nurses.”

PC critic Sylvia Jones held a briefing for reporters Thursday to back up the news release, in which she too accused Matthews of lying about the future of the health tax under a Tory government.

Hudak’s officials clearly felt Jones hadn’t done a good enough job of shutting down talk of scrapping the health tax, so she was told to contact reporters again Thursday to make it very clear the Tories would not be scrapping the tax.

However, by Monday, Hudak was right back to his long-held position that “all options” were on the table to give voters some relief, including the health tax.

“There’s probably no tax that I wouldn’t want to cut, and as part of our platform we’ll be talking about how we can make life more affordable and reduce that tax burden.”

Health care is too important to be a political football, and cutting taxes will mean a reduction in services, said Matthews.

“I think this is proof that Tim Hudak doesn’t have a plan,” she said in an interview.

“He flipped last week, flopped today, and he has yet to tell Ontarians he won’t cut $3 billion out of health care.”

Whether Hudak is talking about cutting the HST or the health tax, you cannot cut taxes without cutting services, warned Matthews.

“Hudak can’t even get this part of his plan figured out, let alone what services he would propose cutting down the road,” she said.

Hudak repeatedly refused to explain why scrapping the health care tax was now being considered, and why the PC party had a completely different position just days ago.

The New Democrats said it was obvious from the quick change in positions that the Tories were making up policy on the fly.

The health-care premium used to cause a lot of grief for the Liberals, because introducing it in 2004 broke Premier Dalton McGuinty’s written campaign pledge not to raise taxes.

However, Hudak’s flip-flop on the health tax Monday seemed to play right into the government’s hands, allowing the Liberals to claim he intends to slash spending and cut services just like former Conservative premier Mike Harris did.

INDEX: HEALTH ONTARIO POLITICS

15 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    The problem with the health care levy, fee, etc is that the $3 billion does not go to the health care budget but into general revenue.

    • Warren says:

      Dude, even if you are right (and I’m not sure you are), “general revenue” is overwhelmingly health-related already.

      • Namesake says:

        Indeed. Acc. to StatCan’s accounting, Health comprised $40.3 of the $104.3-B (= 38.6%) in Ontario’s total provincial gov’t expenditures in 2009.

        http://www40.statcan.gc.ca/l01/cst01/govt08b-eng.htm

        And as you can see in this handy chart http://urlm.in/gycj the Ontario Provincial Government’s Health Expenditures have been steadily rising on a per Capita basis all decade. (and click on the olive-coloured ‘Expenditures’ button there to see a lot more charts like that).

        I.e., there’s little doubt that the $3-B will continue to be needed & used in the health budget, comprising, as it does, only about 7% of the total annual expenditures on health.

        • Brian says:

          Andrew is right.

          Warren is also right.

          Although if Warren’s also right, I don’t see why you don’t just call the HST the “Health Sales Tax” as well.

      • Andrew says:

        It is not a health premium or levy, it is a general income tax surcharge.

        Ministry of Finance has that about $9.3 billion was raised over a four year period but actual health care spending went up by $8.5 billion over the same period. I would think that the $800+ million would have done a lot in terms of cutting wait times and help in delivering services.

        No tax, levy or premium, actually goes toward what it is marked for.

        • Namesake says:

          well, it’s not surprising that the numbers could be out of sync, considering that the taxes aren’t levied until the end of the fiscal year when the income tax return is prepared, to go forward to the next year, while the expenditures are for the year just ending….

          and your saying, again, but more universally, that no tax etc goes for what it’s marked for doesn’t make that assertion any truer: you’re just begging the question.

          and where was it states that the OHP was only intended to cover net increases in health care spending, anyway? as opposed to simply being applied to provincial, health care spending, period, which, again, is over a dozen times greater than what this tax raises.

      • Using a health care levy to raise money for general revenue certainly seems unethical……..using people’s health care money to build bridges(or whatever) reeks of bad optics even for Dalton’s government…

        • Gary says:

          Money is fungible. Unless OHIP was structured in such a way that it’s only source of funding was the OHP. (i.e. in the way that something like the CPP is funded), then there is really no difference with regard to OHP going into the general revenue or not. The government will just borrow or raise taxes or revenue other ways to make the rest of the budget balance out regardless. The only real point in time when this would become an issue with the OHP is if OHP revenues were in excess of what the entire health budget was.

  2. patrick DeBerg says:

    Explain something to me. The typical hardcore blue tory is a don’t tell me anything smoking white male. This older demograpic will need the extra health care simply due to the sheer numbers and poor health and aging factor. More than anyone on the planet these guys should shut up about the cost of free health care but seem oblivious to the irony. Do they not know the cost to an american once afflicted with a heart attack. It has been said the quickest way to turn a republican into a democrat is to let him get his first uncovered bill from a hospital. His family gets to live in a new shiny cardboard box after the bill is settled.
    Dalton needs to frame hudack as he is. Foundering like a grand banks schooner!

    • Jan says:

      Yes, indeedy – someone should really calculate the correlation between those ageing male Conservative tax cut proponents and their estimated future health care costs. As luck would have
      it for them – research and resources for things like heart bypass surgery, valve replacement and
      stent installation are budgeted for generously. Older men certainly aren’t languishing on waiting lists for these procedures. Women waiting for hip replacements – that is another story.

    • Namesake says:

      If I’m not mistaken, The Netherlands also has a law which permits euthanasia for terminal cases like lung cancer, which we do not, and an extraordinary amount of health care money is spent in the final days of life on extraordinary care, here, which really calls into question how transferable that Dutch study is to the Canadian situation (not to mention lots of differences between our different populations which could differentially impact the survivability of tobacco-related cancers & cardio-vascular conditions in the two countries).

  3. Namesake says:

    well, that’s already implicit in the Provincial government expenditures I linked above for the rough categories
    http://www40.statcan.gc.ca/l01/cst01/govt08b-eng.htm

    for Ontario, for 2009, the relative proportions of where everyone’s tax dollars & fees etc. went were as follows:

    General government services 1.7%
    Protection of persons & property 4.3%
    Transportation & communication 3.4%
    Health 38.6%
    Social services 16.3%
    Education 19.6%
    Resource conservation & industrial development 2.5%
    Environment 0.5%
    Recreation & culture 0.7%
    Labour, employment & immigration 0.2%
    Housing 0.8%
    Regional planning & development 0.3%
    Research establishments 0.0%
    General purpose transfers 1.8%
    Debt charges 9.0%
    Other expenditures 0.3%
    Total expenditures 100.0%
    Surplus or deficit -7.8%

    And before you ask, in Alberta (also for 2009), it was:

    General government services 2.1%
    Protection of persons & property 3.3%
    Transportation & communication 9.7%
    Health 30.4%
    Social services 13.4%
    Education 25.4%
    Resource conservation & industrial development 6.3%
    Environment 1.9%
    Recreation & culture 1.3%
    Labour, employment & immigration 0.3%
    Housing 1.4%
    Regional planning & development 0.3%
    Research establishments 0.6%
    General purpose transfers 1.7%
    Debt charges 1.4%
    Other expenditures 0.6%
    Total expenditures 100.0%
    Surplus or deficit 3.1%

    • Namesake says:

      A lot of important food for discussion here, but best left for another day / thread (given how this site works);

      but for the present topic (the legitimate need for the OHP) note that:

      – in addition to having a greater need to expend resources on Health Care due to an aging population, which you’ve drawn attention to,

      – it also has far less money available to do that, proportionally speaking (I haven’t looked up the real revenues per capita, yet), since almost 10% of ON’s expenditures are taken off the table to service its debt which has accumulated over all these decades (compared to only 1.4% for AB, which didn’t _have_ a debt until very recently thanks to its oila from heaven).

  4. Craig Chamberlain says:

    Mr. Harris called?

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