News

Libs quietly polled about new taxes and health-care cuts

Shawn Jeffords, Political Bureau Chief

By Shawn Jeffords, Political Bureau Chief

Premier Kathleen Wynne (STAN BEHAL, Toronto Sun)

Premier Kathleen Wynne (STAN BEHAL, Toronto Sun)

Pick your poison.

The province’s Liberal government appears to have been quietly nosing around to find out if service fee increases, asset sell-offs or tax hikes were palatable to the average voter.

Opinion polls conducted for the Ministry of Finance in March 2015 and again in June of that year show that of the Ontarians surveyed — around 1,400 people between the two polls — a majority indicated they didn’t want most taxes, fees and cuts suggested in the exercise.

The poll — obtained by the Toronto Sun — also asked if respondents would support ending coverage of some health-care services under OHIP. A strong majority said they would oppose such a move.

A similar majority is against the sell-off of Hydro One. Respondents were also opposed to any increase to Ontario’s gas tax.

Another question asks respondents if they would support the Ontario government raising the HST by 1% if the federal government dropped its share by 1%. The move would effectively shuffle the intended federal tax relief to consumers into the coffers of the Liberal government.

“Only three in 10 support this and few support it strongly,” the poll says. “Meanwhile, strong opposition is significant. Most Ontarians say a tax increase would be unacceptable to them right now.”

Jessica Martin, spokesman for Finance Minister Charles Sousa, said the polls were conducted to help the government consult with Ontarians. None of the measures referenced in the 2015 polls are being considered as part of the 2017 budget which will be unveiled Thursday, she said.

“Polling is one of the many ways the government consults with Ontarians as it prepares for a budget,” Martin said. “In 2015, the government conducted market research polls consisting of dozens of questions to help inform our policies.”

Progressive Conservative finance critic Vic Fedeli said he’s not surprised the ideas didn’t get much traction. The polling is designed to find the “path of least resistance” when it comes to service cuts, fee increases or new taxes, he said.

“I think the underlying message is that they’re just looking to take money from the people of Ontario,” he said. “That’s the surprising thing. I think they’re certainly not upfront with people. These were all taxes they considered behind your back.”

The polls were conducted by Gandalf Group, the consulting firm headed up by David Herle, co-chair of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s 2014 election campaign.

sjeffords@postmedia.com

 



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