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Christina Blizzard – Taking from the middle

The Ontario Liberals may have come to power on a slogan of helping “working families,” but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the new Liberal credo is “make the middle class pay” — for everything.

You only have to look at this week’s announcement from Universities Minister Mary Anne Chambers that in future, refugee claimants will be eligible for OSAP.

Meanwhile, if you’re middle class, if your combined family income is more than $54,000, you don’t qualify.

But for those who do qualify for the program, the amount parents are expected to pay towards OSAP is almost halved — to $730 a year. So if you’re a refugee claimant, or anyone else who qualifies for the program you could end up paying $730 a year in tuition — even for a de-regulated course that could cost more than $10,000 in tuition to the rest of us paying the full freight.

But what if the refugee claimant leaves the province before paying off the student loan? What if he or she is ultimately refused?

Either way, it’s a potential double-whammy for average working stiffs. First, they don’t get student assistance for their children. Second, they could be helping to subsidize unpaid balances left behind by refugee claimants or others who default on their loans.

If Chambers had wanted to help the middle class, she would have increased the amount parents are allowed to make and still qualify for OSAP.

It’s the same with expensive drug therapies. If you get cancer, you’d better go on welfare. That way, you’ll have your drugs paid for by the government. Since you won’t have to pay taxes any more, you’ll sleep better.

Middle class? Go into debt or rely on the charity of friends and neighbours to raise the cash for your treatment in the U.S.

We couldn’t do the sensible thing and allow private insurance companies to offer insurance for catastrophic drug claims, because that would be counter to the Canada Health Act, which decrees that no one in this country may pay for health care.

Unless, of course, you’re very rich, in which case you go south to Buffalo or Cleveland for treatment.

It’s the same with the government’s decision to buy out the seven private MRI and CT clinics. Forget the rhetoric about two-tier health care. No one paid cash to use these clinics. It was paid for with your OHIP card, the way you pay for other diagnostic tests in private clinics. This government is so ideologically driven, however, that it will spend our precious health dollars buying real estate.

Meanwhile, the new OHIP premium imposed by the Liberals disproportionately hurts the middle class. Those on welfare — who are getting their medication paid anyway — don’t pay anything.

But the richer you are, the lower percentage of your income you’ll pay. If you make $30,000 a year you’ll see your taxes rise a whopping 23%. If you make $50,000, your taxes still go up a hefty 13%. But if you make more than $200,000, you will pay the maximum of $900 — a 2% hike — chump change for someone in that tax bracket.

And what are they spending all that health premium money on? Why, they’re buying private MRI clinics that were doing a perfectly fine job in the first place.

To add insult to injury, provincial judges are getting a massive 21% pay hike that will cost taxpayers $30 million over three years. (In a news story yesterday, I erroneously reported the amount was $5 million a year.) Okay, it’s not the Liberals’ fault that the commission that sets judges salaries recommended the outrageous increase. And they did appeal the decision.

But they’re asking nurses and hospital staff to hold the line on pay increases — while judges get a $30 million hike?

Even the education tax credit for private schools which the Liberals canned — retroactively — hurt middle class parents. The vast majority were people who gave up vacations, second cars and other luxuries to send their children to private religious schools.

Sure, it was spun as a hand-out to the rich, but the fact is the rich didn’t want, need or care for the credit. Cancelling it mainly hurt low-income and, yes, middle class working people who stretched themselves to the limit to give their youngsters a good start.

Middle class? Over-taxed and under-serviced? It’s a new club.

Come on in and make yourselves comfortable.

You could be here for a long time.

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