Toronto Star’s View: Prime Minister Stephen Harper should butt out of Ontario’s election

Memo to Prime Minister Stephen Harper: Butt out.

Youve got enough trouble with fallout from the Senate scandals, a completely unnecessary squabble with the Supreme Court of Canada, and other federal issues. There’s no reason to meddle in Ontario’s provincial election.

And besides, criticizing Premier Kathleen Wynne’s proposal for a made-in-Ontario pension plan might actually help the Ontario Liberals re-election bid. After all, Wynne would rather spend the campaign debating pensions than get dragged into debating her predecessors decision to fritter away $1.1-billion on gas plant cancellations.

Given Harper’s propensity to needle Ontario Liberals, whether its with the hundreds of millions of dollars lost in transfer payments or an apparent disinterest a potential boom in the provinces Ring of Fire resource region, its best that he not interfere in this campaign. Just get out of the way.

This article was published by Our Windsor on May 5th, 2014. To see this article and other related articles on their website, click here.

Obviously, the federal Conservatives (and their little brothers in Ontario) have a much different perspective on the merits of an Ontario pension plan. They deny there’s any need for such a policy, and insist it amounts to a job-killing payroll tax. And yet on this, at least, they can hardly paint Wynne as an extreme-left politician hell bent on social engineering everyone’s retirement. On the issue of pension reform, shes no outlier.

At the end of last year, all provincial leaders united in a demand for improvements to the Canada Pension Plan, an admirable but inadequate program. Ottawas refusal to support meaningful improvements to the CPP is the reason why Wynne now proposes to go it alone, with provinces like Manitoba and Prince Edward Island interested in signing on.

Harper isnt taking aim at those provinces, but he did call Wynne’s plan a new levy that wont score any points because voters would rather get tax breaks for their savings.

The problem with this is that its plain wrong. Susan Eng, a former tax lawyer who is spokesperson for CARP (the former Canadian Association of Retired Persons), points out that the Ontario plan would in fact allow both employees and employers to write off some of their contribution. Harper, she says, is wrong on the facts.

Politically, too, the prime minister would be best advised to back off. Among CARP members nationwide, Eng says, 80 per cent are in favour of an enhanced pension plan. Those members are seniors who just happen to be among the most committed voters on election day.

Certainly, Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak doesn’t need the prime ministers intervention. Hudak has been relentless in his criticisms of Wynne, former Premier Dalton McGuinty and just about every mistake the Liberals have made, of which there are plenty; gas plants, eHealth and ORNGE, to name only the most notorious.

Ontario voters would be better served by a sharp debate clarifying the clear differences between the progressive policies put forward by the Liberals and the leaner government proposed by Hudak. (Its hard to say what the NDPs Andrea Horwath stands for because so far shes only discussed what shes against.)

When it comes to an Ontario pension plan, voters can decide whether they agree with Wynne’s plan, detailed in last Thursdays $130.4-billion budget plan that did not draw support from the NDP, prompting the election. Wynne is hoping to make it the centerpiece of her campaign and on that front Harper’s meddlesome comments have helped.

What he and Hudak dont seem to appreciate is the fact that voters in both Ontario and across the country are worried about ensuring a decent retirement. While an improved CPP would have been the best approach, with little prospect of that Wynne is right to seek an Ontario solution.

© Our Windsor