McGuinty aims to roll out home reno tax credit early
PICKERING, Ont. - The Liberals are taking "sensible, serious" steps to deal with the worsening global economy by retooling their plans even as the Ontario election campaign winds down, Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty said Thursday.
McGuinty hinted Wednesday he would tweak the party's platform to address the threat of another recession, and he wasted no time in announcing the first change.
At a campaign stop in Pickering on Thursday, McGuinty promised to roll out a tax credit for home renovations 15 months early in an effort to stir up new jobs.
"It would be nice to think that the looming clouds are dissipating, but in fact they appear to be gathering," he said.
"So we're acting in a responsible manner, both in terms of what needs to be done and acting within the framework of our fiscal plan."
The credit would create "immediate demand" for skilled labour, McGuinty said, noting a similar program at the federal level helped the country bounce back from the last recession.
Throughout the campaign, the premier has played up his government's success in pulling through a rough recession, saying his sensible fiscal approach would ensure the province stays on track.
But he's come under fire from his opponents for raising taxes during both his terms and presiding over the eHealth scandal that wasted a billion taxpayer dollars.
The Liberals' last-minute policy changes drew sharp criticism from their rivals, who said the move smacks of desperation.
"I think the timing is interesting," NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said while campaigning in Toronto.
"Look, I think everybody wants jobs and everybody's worried about what's happening with the economy, but I think this is a last-minute attempt for the premier to try to pull more support from voters and I think it's something that people see it for what it is."
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak blasted McGuinty for trying to "make this stuff up on the fly," saying that the premier is in panic mode with the Oct. 6 election looming.
But McGuinty defended his efforts, saying the province needs to be proactive to stave off another recession.
A key component of the federal government's stimulus plan following the recession, home renovation credits pumped billions into the country's economy, according to government figures.
But McGuinty couldn't say how many more jobs would come from the last-minute switch, which would see the credit apply to renovations Oct. 1 instead of the original timeline of January 2013.
Speeding up the program would cost an additional $60 million this fiscal year and another $90 million the next, an expense McGuinty would come out of a $1.7 billion contingency fund his party has planned for every year of their platform.
After that, the program would cost $120 million a year.
The credit covers up to $1,500 a year in home renovations to install ramps, stair lifts and otherwise improve accessibility for seniors.
McGuinty made the announcement at the home of John and Victoria Vonk, two seniors living in Pickering.