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Ontario NDP platform: The full monty

The Ontario NDP presented its comprehensive platform costing yesterday, including all policies announced during the election campaign.

A popular theme among commentators has been that platform costings are unrealistic given the deteriorating economic outlook. As Andrea Horwath noted, her platform includes significant contingency funds.

It is also cautiously built on the fiscal framework set out in the 2011 provincial budget. By contrast, the Liberal and Conservative platforms assume extra revenue arising from economic growth in excess of Budget 2011 projections.

A further point worth making is that elections should be about policy choices. Opposition parties formulating their own fiscal projections from the ground up would instead produce messy debates about differing economic assumptions and forecasting methodologies.

Voters are better served if parties measure their proposals from the same baseline. Constructing a platform on the last budget's fiscal framework facilitates an appropriate focus on policy choices.

Another common refrain among commentators is that the Ontario NDP is emphasizing tax cuts. The following table is from the party's fiscal framework document (page 10):

Fiscal Cost of Ontario Platforms, 2015-16, $ millions

Fiscal Cost of Ontario Platforms, 2015-16, $ millions

In fact, New Democrats would increase provincial spending more than they would reduce taxes. They would invest more in public services than the Liberals and Conservatives.

The NDP would strengthen fiscal capacity by reversing corporate tax cuts and by making permanent the current restrictions on HST input tax credits. (The latter's fiscal significance going forward is well illustrated on page 5 of the NDP's fiscal framework document.)

Far from jumping on the tax-cutting bandwagon, Ontario New Democrats have staked out a fundamentally different policy direction than Liberals and Conservatives.

This article was first posted on The Progressive Economics Forum.

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