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2014-01-21 at 16:34

Bi-partisan committee engages public ahead of provincial budget

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By Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com

While $130 billion sounds like a lot of money, it adds up pretty quick when it comes to the provincial budget.

It's the reason the bi-partisan Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs was in Thunder Bay Tuesday, one of eight cities on the tour, to ask local groups what they'd like to see in the upcoming Ontario budget.

Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce president Charla Robinson said minimum wage and corporate taxation are top of mind for chamber members. A lot has been said about raising rates lately and the province needs to come up with a process to let the public and businesses know what the outcome will be.

"Rather than being surprised by a sudden increase," she said after her presentation at the Valhalla Inn.
Investments need to start being made in infrastructure and training so the province is ready to go when the mining sector takes off in the region.

"Without that money invested now we're probably not going to be able to see the return on that investment in the future," Robinson said.

Ontario Nurses Association Local 73 executive member Colleen Morrow said Ontario's registered nurses are around seven per 100,000 patients, the second lowest in Canada. Getting it up to the national average of 8.3 may increase labour costs but studies show the province can save $60,000 per nurse through better health outcomes.

"There are long-term gains, absolutely it occurs," she said.

MPP Bill Mauro (Lib., Thunder Bay-Atikokan) said the province has made unprecedented investments in departments like health.

"Of course when you're in government you have a finite amount of resources," he said.
Though the government can't please everyone, he thinks a majority of the public sees their priorities met in the budget.

But Progressive Conservative finance critic MPP Vic Fedeli (PC, Nipissing) from private business to social activist groups he's been hearing the same things from everyone on this tour, taxes are too high, there's too much red tape and energy costs too much.

"It's amazing," he said. "Virtually every group talks about that."

NDP finance critic Michael Prue (NDP, Beaches-East York) said getting the budget together is a tough job but it needs to focus on people. Hearing from injured workers has been hard he said.

"They are some of the saddest cases I see in my role," Prue said.

Getting people back to work and fixing a broken claim system needs to be addressed, something that hasn't been done in seven years he said.

 

 

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