Gloves come off, spin starts in HST battle

Wellington County’s two MPPs are usually cordial despite being in two different political parties, but the battle to approve the Harmonized Sales Tax means the fighting is getting nasty.

The Liberal Caucus Service Bureau sent a press release on Monday accusing Well­ington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott of voting against tax cuts and jobs for families in Well­ington County.

Andrew Teliszewsky, who works for the caucus, said similar press re­leases were sent to the ridings of all opposition MPPs, NDP and Conservative, who voted against the bill.

The press release did not mention the HST, though. The one for Well­ington-Halton Hills stated, “Ted Arnott today abandoned local families and business by voting against tax cut legis­lation that would put money in people’s pockets and create jobs in Wellington-Hal­ton Hills.

It quotes Perth-Wellington MPP John Wil­kinson as stating “I think families in Wellington will be alarmed to find out that Ted Arnott voted against cut­ting their taxes and creating jobs. Ontarians will remember that when confronted with the greatest economic challenge of a generation, the Conservatives voted to do nothing.”

Wilkinson said in an inter­view on  Tuesday afternoon he is not backing away from his comment or his vote.

He said the bill called for the province to get out of col­lecting the provincial sales tax and hand those duties over to the federal government.

He said in his six years in the legislature he has never seen a vote called for the first reading of a bill. The provincial and federal government signed a formal agreement on Nov. 9 to put the HST in place.

Wilkinson said he was vot­ing in favour of $15-billion worth of tax cuts over the next three years in Ontario that will create 600,000 jobs, and he will never apologize for that.

He said the provincial gov­ern­ment had to decide what it will do with the money it gets from the federal government, which collects the HST. He said the government decided on tax breaks for people and busi­nesses, and the jobs created from that is “exactly what we need in this province.”

The press release lists four tax cuts and incentives that the opposition is said to have opposed, but nowhere does it mention that the bill being approved was the one to put the HST into effect.

Teliszewsky, when asked about that, “It was a broad, sweep­ing, implementation bill. We are bringing in tax reduc­tions.”

He then added, “Tax har­moni­zation is part of the overall legislation, yes.”

The press releases stated help for families includes:

– a 16.5% tax cut on the first $37,106 of taxable income, making Ontario the lowest per­sonal income tax rate of any province in Canada;

– an average personal in­come tax cut of 10% for ontaro families and individuals earn­ing up to $80,000;

– an 18% tax cut for small businesses to help them create jobs; and

– 17% tax cut for manu­facturers.

Arnott said he found it difficult to believe Wilkinson had made the statement accusing him of failing to support his riding’s families and creating jobs.

But, Arnott said of that quote and the press release in general, “It sounds like Or­well’s 1984.”

He called the wording in the press releas “Orwell Double Speak,” another term from that famous book.

Arnott said that far from cutting off families from tax cuts and jobs, he and other opposition members are trying to stop another immense tax hike by the Liberals. “To sug­gest the whole package is to cut taxes is absurd,” Arnott said. “We’ll continue to oppose it.”

Arnott said Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty has conti­nu­ally promised no tax increases, and then implemented them, and this is no different. Arnott believes the proposed tax cuts are part of the 2011 election cam­paign, but will end up costing all taxpayers more in the end.

“They’ve spent with aban­don,” he said of the Liberals since the 2003 election when McGuinty promised no tax hikes and then levied a health tax of about $1,000 per voter per year.

Arnott said of his vote, “I am re­sponsible in oppo­sition to speak out for those thousands of families here. A tax increase like this is going to hurt them. No matter what the Liberals say, that’s the truth.”

He said the government he was a part of from 1995 to 2003 made mistakes, but it lowered taxes, eliminated the deficit after a few years, and had sev­eral years of balanced budgets. Since the Liberals came to pow­er, it has been deficit after deficit.

“They still haven’t made any meaningful way to cut spending.”