How pocketbook promises can swing the election

Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak and NDP leader Andrea...

Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak and NDP leader Andrea Horwath. (QMI Agency file photos)

Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

, Last Updated: 8:02 AM ET

TORONTO --In this provincial election campaign, it’s all about the big math.

Debt and deficit targets, job creation and jobs lost, seat counts and voter plurality are popular topics.

For regular voters, does the number of $20s in their wallets count?

Abacus Data Inc. CEO David Coletto said so-called “affordability” issues can be vote winners in some elections, as the federal Conservatives enjoyed success with cutting the HST and tax credits for kids’ after-school and sporting programs.

Ontario election polling to be released shortly shows that larger-vision items are dominating public attention so far in this campaign, rather than specific pocketbook promises, he said.

“It really has been focused on a big idea, which is what’s the best approach to managing the economy, broadly speaking,” Coletto said Sunday. “As a result, everything else gets pushed to the side as people make a choice between which direction they think the province should be headed.”

The PC “million jobs” plan is one of those election promises that in general appeals to a lot of voters, even if how the party gets there has them concerned, he said.

The NDP has made affordability a major plank of its election campaign so it’s no surprise that the party is offering the most tangible, wallet-friendly proposals, Coletto said.

When asked, voters like the NDP idea of freezing tuition rates, for instance, but most have never heard of it, he said.

The Kathleen Wynne Liberals are continuing with some money-savers — several introduced under Dalton McGuinty, such as the 30% tuition break — but their attention is focused mainly on their plan to bring in an Ontario Pension Plan, Coletto said.

The Tories are dangling significant personal income tax cuts but only after the provincial budget is balanced, sometime after 2016.

University of Toronto political science Prof. Nelson Wiseman said the NDP, under Leader Andrea Horwath, had clearly decided to run on pocketbook issues long before the campaign got underway officially.

Wynne’s May 1 budget, which essentially serves as her election platform, is aimed at the kind of NDP voters who like big initiatives rather than an extra $100 in their pockets, he said.

“What’s happened in this election is the Liberals are trying to outflank the NDP on the left and they’re succeeding,” Wiseman said.

PC Leader Tim Hudak may not be offering many enticements in his platform but voters generally look at him and his party as fiscal managers who will keep government spending down, Wiseman said.

NDP candidate Jagmeet Singh said the party listened to average Ontarians who told them that while their wages stayed the same, everything else was costing more.

The party crafted a platform that addressed the big-ticket items for people, such as auto insurance rates and electricity prices.

“I think what it shows is that we’re just a party that’s concerned about what really affects people’s lives,” Singh said. “We’re trying to ensure that we’re doing things and taking steps to actually make their lives easier … and these pocketbook issues happen to be issues that really matter to people.”

The NDP is not trying to alienate downtown Toronto hipsters who aren’t moved by affordability issues, it’s just trying to bring more people under the party’s umbrella, he said.

PC candidate Vic Fedeli said his party platform’s number one goal is to create a million jobs, which is the ultimate pocketbook issue.

In the meantime, voters will need to wait until the budget is balanced before there are tax cuts — a PC election staple in the past.

“We need to focus our attention on creating jobs, balancing the budget to give the families the relief that they need — bigger relief that they need than some shiny baubles in the window today,” Fedeli said.

Liberal candidate Charles Sousa said his party tried to take a balanced approach with targeted pocketbook measures such as tuition and electricity relief, but also long-term support through an Ontario Pension Plan proposal.

“We recognize we must take initiatives now to position ourselves for the future,” Sousa said. “At the same time, though, we are taking immediate steps to (help) the middle class, who feel the pinch all the time.”

NEW DEMOCRATS: “(A) PLAN THAT MAKES SENSE”

Wallet booster: Take the provincial portion of HST off hydro
How much: Save about $120 a year, staring in 2016
Who’s eligible: Residential hydro customers

Wallet booster:
Repeal hydro debt retirement charge in 2016
How much: $70 a year for average family
Who’s eligible: All hydro customers

Wallet booster:
Reduce auto insurance rates
How much: By average of 15%
Who’s eligible: Most drivers but possibly not the worst drivers

Wallet booster:
Freeze tuition fees
How much: Varies but current Liberal plan allows 3% increase a year.
Who benefits: All post-secondary students (excluding international students)

Wallet booster:
Maintain Liberal 30% off post-secondary tuition
How much: Save $1,780 for university students, $820 for college students
Who’s eligible: Full-time undergrads, parents gross income $160,000 or less

Wallet booster:
Eliminate provincial portion of interest on student loans
How much: Depends on size of student debt
Who’s eligible: Ontario post-secondary students with loans

Wallet booster:
Caregiver Tax Credit
How much: $1,275 per year, per family member in need, to limit of three
Who’s eligible: Anyone caring for frail elderly or ill family member at home

LIBERALS 2014 BUDGET “BUILDING OPPORTUNITY, SECURING OUR FUTURE”

Wallet booster: Continue their 30% off post-secondary tuition
How much: Save $1,780 for university students, $820 for college students
Who’s eligible: Full-time undergrads, parents gross income $160,000 or less

Wallet booster: Cap or cut hospital parking fees
How much: Not known
Who’s eligible: Frequent visitors due to medical condition or loved one in hospital.

Wallet booster: Reduce auto insurance rates
How much: By 15% on average by August (Liberals say already down 7%)
Who’s eligible: Most drivers but probably not the worst drivers.

Wallet booster: End debt retirement charge on hydro bills by 2015
How much: $70 a year for average family
Who’s eligible: Residential hydro customers

Wallet booster: Home Electricity Assistance Program
How much: Up to 10% off hydro rates or up to $17 a month per family
Who’s eligible: Low income families

Wallet booster: Increasing Ontario Child Benefit
How much: $100 per child to maximum of $1,310 in July
Who’s eligible: Families making about $30,000 a year or less

Wallet booster: More Legal Aid
How much: Varies
Who’s eligible: Doubling eligibility threshold over seven years.Current threshold about $18,000-$43,000 a year, depending on family size

PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVES “MILLION JOBS PLAN”

Wallet booster: Kill Drive Clean
How much: $30 for cars, any related repairs
Who’s eligible: Anyone with an older model car will save money.

Wallet booster: Cut in personal income taxes (after budget balanced in 2016)
How much: About $825 per year for average family
Who’s eligible: Most Ontarians

Wallet booster: Lower hydro costs/stop signing FIT contracts
How much: PCs estimate $384 a year less on hydro bill compared to current Liberal projections
Who’s eligible: All hydro customers


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