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Horwath would open family health clinics, restore ONTC rail passenger service

The Ontario NDP unveiled its platform Thursday, detailing its plan should the party form the government after the June 12 provincial election.
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Early indications from the North East LHIN's online survey shows the biggest issue for respondents is access to home and community care services. File photo,
The Ontario NDP unveiled its platform Thursday, detailing its plan should the party form the government after the June 12 provincial election.

The proposals include a host of new spending plans, which would be funded through a mix of tax increases and strategies to find savings in existing government programs. Like the Liberals, the NDP vows to balance the books by 2017-2018.

For Northern Ontario, the party commits to spending money right away on developing infrastructure for the Ring of Fire, although dollars amounts are not part of the document released Thursday. Costs associated with those investments aren't detailed in the plan. Total new spending estimates are $1.8 billion in 2014-2015, rising to $2.86 billion in 2017-2018.

The party also plans to widen 60 kilometres of highway every year, half in Northern Ontario, at a cost of $250 million. Passenger service on Ontario Northland would be restored at a cost of $20 million a year, and $40 million would be spent in 2014-2015 to buy 200 more snowplows and sandtrucks.

Other highlights for the North include a plan to open 50 family health clinics at a cost of $75 million a year, $70 million to eliminate the waiting list for acute care beds and $30 million to hire more nurse practitioners to work in hospital emergency departments. A tax credit for caregivers would cost $250 million by 2017.

A $29-billion fund would be used over 10 years for transit and transportation projects across the province, although it wasn't immediately clear whether local projects like the Maley Drive extension would be eligible.

Other highlights:
— Save $600 million with a Minister of Savings and Accountability, who will do things like shrink ministers’ office budgets, cut the size of cabinet by a third and cap the salaries of public-sector CEOs.
— Immediately fill the Financial Accountability Officer position who, among other things, will “clean up the mess in Ontario’s hydro system and pass the savings on to consumers.”
— Reduce hydro costs by: merging four of Ontario’s hydro agencies; capping hydro CEO salaries; and, getting a better price for electricity exports through direct trading.
— Raise the corporate tax rate from 11.5 to 12.5 per cent and cut small business tax rate from 4.5 to 3 per cent.
— Eliminate Ontario's $12.5-billion deficit by 2017-18.
— Targeted tax cuts for companies that create jobs, up to $5,000 per employee, but with "strings attached" to make sure the strategy achieves its goals.
— Guarantee that patients discharged from hospital who need home care would get it within five days.
— Freeze college and university tuitions, make student loans interest-free and forgive up to $20,000 a year of student debt for doctors who agree to work in under-serviced areas.

The full platform can be found at www.ontariondp.ca. Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne is expected to unveil her party's platform Sunday in Thunder Bay.

Darren MacDonald

About the Author: Darren MacDonald

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