TORONTO - An NDP government would scrap Ontario's fees for ambulance services so people won't have to choose between timely medical attention and their budgets, leader Andrea Horwath said Wednesday.

"I don't think that families should have to think twice about dialling 911 during an emergency," said Horwath.

"Eliminating this fee will make sure an already painful and stressful situation isn't made worse."

The $45 fee often charged to be transported to hospital is one of the many charges Ontario residents must pay in what is supposed to be an accessible health-care system, Horwath said.

While people on Ontario Works, disability or home care programs and those in long-term care facilities don't have to pay the fee, 650,000 of the 900,000 trips a year in Ontario are subject to it.

Horwath's own mother, who is in her 70s, has hesitated to call for a ride when she needed it.

"We have an aging population, there's more and more seniors who are going to be in need of that kind of service and I think it's something that's going to take a load off their mind," said Horwath.

The plan will cost about $30 million a year but have no impact on hospital budgets, according to the NDP.

Premier Dalton McGuinty dismissed the idea Wednesday, saying his government's focus will be on issues "of higher priority to families."

"It's kind of interesting coming from the party which was the original author of the $45 fee," McGuinty added, alluding to the government of former NDP premier Bob Rae, who is now interim leader of the federal Liberals.

Health Minister Deb Matthews said ambulance fees have "almost never" been brought up as a concern, adding that there's no way taking $30 million out of the health care system wouldn't have an impact somewhere.

"I get, as you can imagine, a lot of advice on what more we need to do, and this is not one that I've heard very much about at all," said Matthews.

"Of course it'd be lovely to do, but I wouldn't say that would be the best use of the $30 million."

Horwath disagreed, noting that she had spoken with paramedics and other emergency workers and "it makes a heck of a lot of sense to them."

"They know that people hesitate to call ambulances, they know that people think twice and they know that's not a good system for the province," said Horwath.

New Brunswick announced plans to scrap a similar fee after a $130 bill was sent to a grieving family less than a week after the death of their son, who was electrocuted at a Wal-Mart. Prince Edward Island removed its $150 fee for seniors in 2009.

While Horwath didn't explain how the NDP would make up for the $30-million shortfall, she hinted that capping CEO salaries, getting rid of pricey consultants and rolling back corporate tax cuts would all be good ways to find savings.

Financial details of the plan will be provided when the party releases its platform during a pre-campaign convention June 24.

The NDP has already promised to take the HST off hydro and home heating bills as well as regulate gas prices.