As inflation rates soar to levels not seen in decades, Steven Del Duca wants to give Ontario families a tax break on dinner.
The Liberal leader is promising to eliminate the eight per cent provincial portion of the harmonized sales tax on fast food, prepared foods like take-home rotisserie chickens, and restaurant meals costing up to $20 if he topples Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives in the June 2 election.
Currently, the threshold for meals free of provincial tax is $4, which has been unchanged for a generation.
“Families are being hit hard by the skyrocketing cost of food, all while the richest in our province are getting richer,” Del Duca said Friday at Cataldi Fresh Market in Vaughan.
The promise aimed at easing affordability concerns — expected to be a major focus for all parties in the campaign — would cost the provincial treasury $500 million and be implemented within 100 days of the election, the Liberal leader added.
“We will pay for it with fairer taxes for the richest people and corporations,” he said.
Del Duca’s pledge came the day after Ford’s Progressive Conservatives released a record $198.6 billion pre-election budget at Queen’s Park and against the backdrop of Statistics Canada reporting inflation was at 6.7 per cent last month.
That’s the highest level in the country since 1991.
Ford and Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy were on the campaign trail in Scarborough, thanking construction workers building the subway extension there.
They were also promoting a budget-cum-election platform that will not pass the legislature before the campaign officially begins Wednesday. The legislature has been adjourned until Sept. 12, but could be recalled sooner if the next government so decides.
While Bethlenfalvy waffled Thursday on whether the Tories would reintroduce his budget intact if re-elected, he moved to clarify things the next day.
“If re-elected with a majority, we’re going to table this budget to pass as we presented it to the people of Ontario,” the treasurer told host Ismaila Alfa on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.
“I can’t think of a better way than to go to the people and let them vote on this budget,” said Bethlenfalvy.
Ford will unveil his campaign bus Saturday in Etobicoke, while NDP Leader Andrea Horwath holds her election kickoff at Gage Park in Hamilton.
The promised Liberal tax break on food would be paid for with a one per cent surtax on Ontario companies with profits greater than $1 billion a year and a two per cent surtax on people making more than $500,000 annually.
At a campaign-style event outside a Scarborough hospital, Horwath said the Liberals are “trying to fix something that they broke in the first place,” noting it was the previous Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty that put the HST on foods over $4.
“You can’t trust the Liberals to do the right thing in the first place,” added Horwath, who is proposing to expand pharmacare, dental care and mental health care and freeze provincial income taxes on households with combined incomes of about $200,000 or less if elected premier.
“The thing that’s not going up is people’s paycheques, so people are struggling,” she said Friday.
Although he was a cabinet minister under former premier Kathleen Wynne, Del Duca tried to distance himself from previous Liberal government by referring at least twice to his “new Ontario Liberal team.”
Del Duca also said he would “eliminate corporate taxes for small businesses deeply hurt by the pandemic for two years.”
For his part, Green Leader Mike Schreiner dismissed Bethlenfalvy’s “pro-sprawl, anti-climate budget.”
“It’s the kind of budget that will take Ontario backwards and pave over our future,” said Schreiner, noting the 241-page document had “no environment chapter.”
“This government says that if they are re-elected, they are going to waste your money building highways like Highway 413, which will pave over the farmland that feeds us and the nature that protects us.”