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Budget talk

THUNDER BAY -- Two months ago the provincial budget was unveiled and resoundingly defeated by the opposition parties, triggering a spring election.
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Minister of Northern Development and Mines and Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP Michael Gravelle. (Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com)

THUNDER BAY -- Two months ago the provincial budget was unveiled and resoundingly defeated by the opposition parties, triggering a spring election.

Once again the Liberals will present the exact same piece of legislation, but this time are a lot more confident the motion will pass.

That’s the impact a majority mandate will have.

That budget, which formed the centrepiece of the Liberal platform that led to a re-election victory on June 12, will be re-introduced at Queen’s Park Monday.

Michael Gravelle, the returning Minister of Northern Development and Mines, said there are numerous elements of the budget that will benefit Northwestern Ontario.

“There are some very significant pieces in that budget I am very keen to see passed,” said the Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP last week.

“I look forward to it passing I hope before the end of July.”

Highlighted among those pieces is a $1 billion infrastructure investment into the Ring of Fire, which is expected to have different conditions than when it was announced during the first version of the budget.

The May budget presentation had the funding contingent upon matching federal dollars but Premier Kathleen Wynne announced during the election campaign the contingency clause would be removed.

Other components that Gravelle mentioned for the region included a continuation of four-laning the Trans-Canada Highway between Thunder Bay and Nipigon as well as raises for personal support workers and child care workers.

The spending announced in the budget is expected to increase the deficit to $12.5 billion.

The Liberals have announced they intend to balance the provincial books in three years, though details on how exactly that will happen remain vague.

But the ballooning deficit has raised alarms throughout the financial sector.

Moody’s recently gave the province’s credit rating a “negative” outlook, though the rating was not downgraded.

Last month federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver urged his Ontario counterparts to begin work now on bringing the ledgers back into the black, rather than increasing spending now.

Gravelle shrugged off those concerns, insisting this budget is a “balanced, responsible document.”

“Our government is very conscious that while we are indeed excited about many of the economic development benefits that are in that budget, let alone the social benefits, there is also a clear path forward to reach a balance in 2017-2018,” he said.



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