Ontario' minority Liberals look for NDP support for third consecutive budget

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TORONTO - Tax hikes on high income earners and smokers to help fund public transit are expected to be a key part of today's Ontario budget.

But the question remains — will it trigger an election or will the NDP again prop up the minority Liberal government.

The New Democrats didn't make specific budget demands as they did in the past two years, but warn they won't support any new taxes, tolls or fees on the middle class.

It appears the Liberals are ready to meet the NDP's conditions by increasing taxes on the wealthy and eliminating some corporate tax credits, as well as introducing a provincial pension plan, an idea the New Democrats championed in the past.

The Canadian Press has learned the government has hired Michael Nobrega, the recently retired CEO of the $60 billion Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System fund, to be the "implementation lead" for the new provincial pension plan.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says she wants to actually see the budget, and consult with the public, before she announces whether or not her party can support the Liberals on the confidence vote that will follow within the next few weeks.

Horwath has to decide whether it's better to keep dealing with a left-leaning Liberal government or force an election in which she could end up with a right-wing Conservative administration that won't make concessions to the NDP.

Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the budget would allocate $29 million over 10 years to expand public transit and repair roads and bridges, and create a $2.5-billion-dollar fund to give grants to corporations to attract investment and new jobs.

The Progressive Conservatives plan to vote against the budget and say they would end "corporate welfare" and have condemned the provincial pension plan as a "job killing payroll tax."

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press indicate the Liberals will hike taxes on high income earners, corporations and smokers to help raise money for public transit.

The documents, which were not obtained from Liberal sources, suggest the budget will also announce the phase in of a four-cent-a-litre increase in the tax on aviation fuel over four years, restrict tax credits for large corporations and stop construction companies from claiming the fuel tax exemption.

Wynne's staff reject suggestions the premier could call the election herself if the New Democrats take too long making up their mind about the budget, and she herself said she is still committed to trying to make the minority government work.

Organizations: NDP, Canadian Press, Progressive Conservatives

Geographic location: Ontario, TORONTO

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