The provincial Liberal party needs to step up its communication skills, according to Ottawa-West Nepean Liberal incumbent Bob Chiarelli.
Chiarelli met with the Sun for an editorial board meeting Wednesday, addressing issues across the board.
The party, he said, has many strengths, but could improve relaying its policies, especially when the 13% Harmonized Sales Tax was introduced in July 2010, combining the provincial sales tax and the federal goods and services tax.
“Perhaps we didn’t do a good enough job of explaining why,” he said.
Chiarelli said there are many misconceptions about the tax, which he lauds for “creating jobs in spades” — 74,000 new jobs across Ontario since last summer.
The unemployment rate has declined to 7.9% and Ontario’s real gross domestic product increased by 2.8% in 2010.
He says the HST is helping low-income and medium-income residents.
“It’s a net benefit for them,” he said.
Switching over to the LRT, Chiarelli said it’s not his place to comment on the Light Rail Transit system.
“That’s the decision of the city of Ottawa,” he said, adding he thinks it’s important it moves forward since it’s “long overdue.”
“The faster they can do it, the better,” he said.
Speaking of speed, the province is spending between $50 and $80 million on high-occupancy lanes in Ottawa within the next year, the infrastructure minister proudly said.
“They will be going from the (Hwy.) 417-416 split all the way out past Carp Rd.,” said Chiarelli, adding the lanes will be in place by next spring.
Addressing the future of health care in Ontario, Chiarelli defended the Liberals’ Local Health Integrated Networks — something opponents Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath have said they’ll eliminate .
“Tim Hudak is so shallow,” said Chiarelli. “He’s going to save health care by getting rid of the LHINs? It doesn’t even put a dent into the budget. He doesn’t say what’s going to replace them.”
Finally, Chiarelli supports Dalton McGuinty’s plan to give $10,000 grants to businesses for hiring skilled immigrants who have been in Ontario for under five years.
“It’s part of our being as a country and a province,” he said, adding Quebec has a similar program.
He reiterated it’s for educated professionals such as engineers, architects, and surveyors.
People are coming to Ontario in droves, he said, thanks to the province partnering with the federal government on infrastructure stimulus funding.
“We’ve had eight successive quarters of economic growth coming out of the recession.”