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Hudak defends job plan, backs subway extension
May 27, 2014
By Tim Kelly

The issue for Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak Monday wasn’t so much what he was saying on the campaign trail, as where he was saying it.

In question was the Tory leader’s decision to avoid the Northern Ontario issues debate by Liberal Kathleen Wynne and NDP chief Andrea Horwath, who spent the noon-hour in Thunder Bay sparring over resources and northern jobs, while Hudak toured a cabinet-maker in Thornhill.

The Tory boss downplayed his decision to avoid the northern debate, one of just two – the only other debate is Tuesday, June 3 – before the June 12 election, though he had harsh words when then premier Dalton McGuinty skipped it in 2011.

“Last time it worked out, this time it didn’t, it conflicted with my schedule. I’m going to keep working, I’ve got an important job to do,” Hudak said Monday in a sit-down interview with York Region Media after meeting the media at Rayval Cabinets in Markham.

Asked if northerners would take his absence as a snub, Hudak said, “having been (Minister) of Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation (under former PC premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eves from 1999-2003) I’ve travelled across Northern Ontario more than the (other) two leaders combined.”

He touched on several of the major planks in his platform, especially his plan to create a million jobs over the next eight to 10 years, the decision to eliminate 100,000 public sector jobs, his plan to not support an increase to the minimum wage and goals to boost transit in York Region.

Hudak said creating a million jobs over eight years is possible because, “we’ve done it before. I was part of a PC government when we created 1.1 million jobs over eight years in a smaller economy (1995-2003), so there’s that.

“I understand why people can be skeptical because you look at the current job-creation record of the Liberals and it’s near the back of the pack. We (Harris-Eves PCs) led North America in job creation and I’m confident with lower energy prices, less red tape, lower taxes, more free trade, we can do it again. It’s not simply a goal, it’s a necessity.

“If we don’t create a million more jobs in the next 10 years, we’ll end up with European-style stagnation. We already have that many who are unemployed, on welfare or who have given up looking for work. We have new Canadians moving to Ontario, we have population growth moving into the workforce, we don’t have any choice. If we don’t create those jobs, we’ll have permanently high unemployment.”

Hudak’s million jobs plan has been challenged by the Liberals who claim it fails basic math. They say the annual 119,808 jobs created is person-years of employment, not jobs, and is not sustainable year over year. The Liberals said the Hudak plan is based on a formula of reducing the corporate tax rate from 11.5 per cent to 8 per cent, which the PCs say they will do if elected and the resulting job creation promised, but the Liberals say it won’t come close to producing a million jobs.

They allege it will create a fraction of that amount and say Hudak fails to address their criticism.

“The PC number of 119,808 (jobs per year) means that over the life of the plan, 119,808 people will each be employed for one year. Or 14,976 people will be employed for all eight years,” say the Liberals in a recent release. “The mistake that Tim Hudak, who has a masters degree in Economics, makes is the same as saying that his employment as an MPP for 19 years should count as 19 jobs having been created since 1995.”

Asked if his million-jobs-plan was recession-proof, Hudak said the tools he is using to create jobs are the best way to make Ontario survive another recession.

“If we’re worried about a recession, going deeper into debt, increasing taxes,” will cause more problems, he said.

He also said a made-in-Ontario pension plan as proposed by the Liberals would cost the province 150,000 jobs as employers and employees would have to pay an additional $1,200 a year apiece on top of existing CPP premiums to fund the plan.

Hudak said the 150,000 job-loss figure is backed up by Ministry of Finance official statistics.

“Retirement security is an important goal, but you can’t have retirement security without job security. We have to concentrate on more jobs, with more take-home pay. First of all we have to balance the budget and then lower taxes for all workers by 10 per cent,” he said.

Hudak was firm that raising the minimum wage above the scheduled rate of $11 per hour is “not part of our plan. I’m in the business of creating more career jobs, not jobs that you’re stuck with.”

He said his 10 per cent tax cut, expected after 2016, will provide $825 more per family that earns $70,000 per year, and will create, according to the Conference Board of Canada, another 47,000 jobs in Ontario.

“That will give the average family in Thornhill a little more money to spend,” said Hudak.

His big push is to stick to a firm pay freeze for all public sector workers, including MPPs for the next two years and to not spend beyond our means.

“If you’re spending more than you have, you have to start to spend less... it’s just a function of mathematics.”

The cut of 100,000 public sector positions, the PC leader promised, will be done through a very “thoughtful, practical and compassionate process. A lot of those jobs will be eliminated by attrition; there are areas of government that can be done better outside of government; a lot of the readers will be amazed at how much government they’ll never miss,” he said.

One such area Hudak pointed to is Drive Clean, which he noted that the Auditor General indicated has “had its day. Why are we making everybody in Thornhill celebrate their birthday by going through that hassle and have a tax every two years just to keep the bureaucrats busy?”

His transit plan would see York Region get a second subway link with the Yonge line extended north to Richmond Hill. Hudak said that, along with an east-west downtown relief line in Toronto, it was a major transit priority for him.

“One hundred per cent,” he said of his support of the Yonge extension, should he be elected premier.

“I don’t believe the status quo is working. Nothing ever gets built. The province of Ontario needs to seize the wheel.”

Hudak said the Yonge extension can be built simultaneously, while the downtown relief line is under construction.

Thornhill PC candidate and MPP Gila Martow said she wants to see more money spent on subway construction as opposed to Viva rapidway construction. Martow, Thornhill PC MP Peter Kent and municipal politicians Alan Shefman of Vaughan, Richmond Hill’s Godwin Chan and Valerie Burke of Markham are all part of a multi-municipal subway team pushing to find $100 million to bring the Yonge subway to Richmond Hill.

“It’s about prioritizing our valuable transit dollars,” said Martow, who said she is frustrated at Liberal plans to spend $150 million on a rapidway up Yonge Street in Richmond Hill. She has been an outspoken opponent of a rapidway plan along Bathurst and Centre streets in Vaughan over the last few years prior to becoming MPP.

“We need more GO Train service from Unionville, from Langstaff, to Union Station. It seems there is nobody supervising these projects. A one-year project takes two years, a two-year project takes three years,” she complained.