Ontario’s Liberal minority government has passed its budget and avoided going back to the polls.
The budget passed on Tuesday thanks to the support of the NDP who abstained, but allowed the Liberals to out vote the Progressive Conservatives 52 to 37 and avoid a second election in less than a year.
There was little doubt the budget motion would pass after Premier Dalton McGuinty agreed to the NDP leader Andrea Horwath’s demand to impose a two per cent point surtax on incomes more than $500,000.
The Liberals calculate the surtax on what the NDP call the "ultra wealthy" will bring in $470 million a year, all of which McGuinty said would go towards the $15.2 billion deficit.
McGuinty also said "the NDP surtax" would be scrapped when the budget is balanced in 2017-18.
The Tories had vowed to reject the budget as soon as it was introduced, complaining it did not reduce government spending or do anything to help create jobs.
MPP Bill Mauro (Lib. Thunder Bay – Atikokan) said it’s now all done and they can move forward.
“The budget has been what most people have been concerned about,” Mauro said. “All that money will go onto the deficit to bring us back to a balance budget. I think what a fair move is to ensure that we don’t go back to the polls. It’s a minority government and I think people would have been very angry with all parties especially the two opposition parties if they forced us into an election.”
Minister of Natural Resources Michael Gravelle said the help of the NDP has helped to make a better budget. Gravelle praised the work both parties were able to accomplish and expressed his support of the $20 million transition funding for northern and rural healthcare.
Gravelle said Ontarians wanted the two parties to work together and not trigger another election.
“To me this is an example of the good that can be done in a minority government,” Gravelle said. “I’m am very disappointed that the Conservatives chose to sit on the sidelines. I think Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak position of rejecting the budget even before it was present and not even engage in discussion was irresponsible.”
With the budget passed, Gravelle said he can now move ahead with consultants and talk to stakeholders.
MPP Sarah Campbell (NDP, Kenora – Rainy River) said they listened to what people had to say and worked to improve the budget. She said her party won serious and important concessions including $20 million for northern and rural healthcare and a tax on the province's highest earners.
She said that made things fairer.
“Today we sent a message that this government is on probation,” Campbell said. “We do not like the budget, but we gained significant concessions to make it a little fairer. We did not vote in favour of the budget, but we did not defeat the government today because the people of this riding and across the province told us very clearly to work to strengthen the budget but not to force an election.”
With files from the Canadian Press