TORONTO – The Conservative’s finance critic has slammed the Ontario budget, saying it proves the governing Liberals have given up on Northern Ontario.
Vic Fedeli said the budget, released on Thursday, includes a $70-million cut to Northern Development and Mines and the $1 billion promised for Ring of Fire infrastructure has mysteriously disappeared.
“The Ministry helps to establish mining operations all over Northern Ontario, creating good well-paying jobs that help to grow our Northern economy — obviously not a concern of this government,” Fedeli said.
“It came as a serious shock to see that this year’s budget removed all mention of the Ring of Fire. After three years of promises the Wynne government has completely abandoned this critical mining project,” Fedeli said.
The Opposition Conservatives were also critical of Liberal claims of having balanced the budget, a first in a decade in Ontario, saying the government in fact delivered a $5-billion operational deficit when factoring in $2 billion pulled from cap and trade, $500 million in pension assets, $1.5 billion from federal transfer payments and $1 billion in monies raised through the sale of Hydro One shares.
Leader Patrick Brown said the Liberals have doubled the provincial debt since taking office and have no plan to pay it down.
“Whether it’s hydro, health care, or housing, this budget is a patchwork attempt by a desperate government to fix the mess they created,” said Brown, a little more than a year before he’ll lead the Conservatives into his first election as party head.
“But a Liberal is a Liberal. If they win, they’ll go back to their old ways, and raise your taxes, cut your health care, and hike your hydro rates once again.
Not surprisingly, the budget didn’t meet the standard expected by the NDP, who called Wynne out of touch and said the document does not undo the damage her government has done to affordability for people or the services they rely on.
“What’s clear from this budget is that Ontarians waiting for a $15 minimum wage will have to wait for a change in government,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath in a release issued to media.
“The 85 per cent of Ontarians that want a public hydro system and reform that will get their bills down, and keep them down – they’ll have to wait for a change in government. And the vast majority of the 2.2 million Ontarians without a drug plan won’t get the help they need until after the election.”
The NDP were also critical of the Liberal plan to provide free drug coverage to residents 24 and younger, saying the Liberals didn’t go far enough and leaves one-third of all working Ontarians without prescription drug coverage.
Budget highlights include a tobacco tax hike of $10 a carton over three years, a cap of 30 on full-day kindergarten classes by 2017-18, a seniors’ public transportation tax credit, and the allocation of between $75 million and $100 million in unused lands for affordable housing.
The abortion pill will now be funded publicly. Already announced inclusions are highlighted by a promise to add 100,000 child-care spaces, rent control, a foreign buyer’s tax to help alleviate housing prices in southern Ontario and the basic income pilot project, which will be tested in Thunder Bay, Hamilton and Lindsay.
The budget drew praise from the Ontario Hospital Association and Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day, who applauded the province for its renewed commitment to First Nation education.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa called it a well-rounded plan that will move Ontario forward in challenging times.
“A balanced budget is more than just the bottom line number. It’s about finding new ways to help you and your family. It’s about creating opportunities and providing the supports people need to succeed. This balanced budget is dedicated to providing young people with free prescription medications, providing free tuition and helping businesses grow. We are delivering on our commitment to ensure that everyone has equal opportunities for success,” Sousa said in a release.