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Provincial candidates largely negative on budget

April 6, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Bill Rea
The Provincial budget brought down last Wednesday by Finance Minister Charles Sousa offered lots of promised spending, along with some people paying more in taxes to cover it.
And there’s still the promise of a $6.7 billion deficit this year.
While the Liberals seem pleased with what has been announced, other parties are not as enthused.
“That could not have been more of a pre-election budget,” Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones commented the following day.
But Bob Gordanier, Dufferin-Caledon Liberal candidate in the coming election, was more positive.
“I didn’t think it was too bad a budget,” he told the Citizen.
The budget includes significant new investments in health care, child care, home care and mental health, as well as new measures to create more job opportunities. It also focuses on initiatives that make life more affordable and provide more financial security during a time of rapid economic change.
The government, in a news release issued last Wednesday, stated Ontario’s economy is getting stronger, with the unemployment at its lowest level in almost 20 years. But there is also concern about the rising cost of living and the difficulty people are having finding stable, long-term jobs.
Provisions announced by the government include the introduction of a new Seniors’ Healthy Home Program, which will provide a benefit of up to $750 annually for eligible households led by seniors 75 and older to help them live independently and offset the costs of maintaining their homes.
There are also plans for a new Ontario Drug and Dental Program, reimbursing families and individuals for some of their eligible prescription drug and dental expenses for those without workplace health benefits or not covered by OHIP+ or other government programs.
More affordable, quality child care is proposed by making preschool care free for youngsters aged two-and-a-half until they are eligible for kindergarten.
There are also plans for providing better and faster access to mental health and addictions services for more children, young people and adults, bringing the total funding to more than $17 billion over four years.
The government is proposing to create more opportunity for young people by making college and university tuition free for more than 225,000 students of all ages.
“Ontario’s economy is getting stronger, businesses are creating record numbers of jobs and unemployment is at the lowest rate in almost two decades,” Sousa said. “Our budget is balanced. We have a $600-million surplus. Now, we are using our strengthened fiscal position to make life more affordable for families and create new opportunity for businesses across the province.”
“The 2018 Budget will include new investments in health care, child care and seniors care to help even more families get ahead,” he added.
But Jones pointed out there is not much that’s being offered in this fiscal year.
She was also not taken with the planned deficit.
“How far into debt and deficit do you want to go?” she asked. “That’s the choice the voters have to make.”
The government is also proposing to run deficits for the next six years, and Jones pointed out they have been making major announcements of promises for the last month. She didn’t think the government could have had an epiphany.
“I think there’s a credibility gap there,” she remarked.
“Unfortunately, the Liberals’ attempt to buy the votes of Ontarians with their own tax dollars will not make people forget the 15 years of scandal, waste and mismanagement,” Jones said in a release issued by her office just after the budget came down. “We will not forget that the Liberals promised to balance the budget, but have now presented a $6.7 billion deficit. We will not forget the $8 billion wasted on e-health, and the $1.1 billion wasted cancelling gas plants. We will not forget that the Wynne Liberals have doubled Ontario’s debt to over $325 billion.”
She also said the government’s going back on the promise to balance the budget is going to hurt families.
“The interest on the debt alone costs taxpayers more than $1 billion a month,” she observed. “The money being spent servicing the debt crowds out our ability to fund services Ontarians need and deserve. What’s more, in the last 15 years, the Liberals haven’t spent a dime reducing Ontario’s debt.”
But Gordanier was of a different mind.
“The Liberal government’s 2018-19 budget is good news for the people of Dufferin-Caledon, who deserve a government that will invest in the programs, services and infrastructure that make the biggest difference,” he said in a statement he issued Monday. “In recent days, the Premier and her cabinet have promised that this budget would focus on care, and it is clear that this promise has been kept.”
He also said the budget is one of the “most progressive and people-focused Ontario has ever seen,” as he cited unprecedented investments in healthcare, long-term care and childcare.
Gordanier pointed out the budget commits to an additional $500 million over three years to expand broadband connectivity, increasing access to pharmacare, and providing up to $750 per year for seniors to help maintain their home.
“This builds on five years of milestone achievements for the Liberal government, including free prescription drugs for youth, much-needed investments in long-term and home care, and the largest infrastructure investment in Ontario’s history,” he observed. “With this budget, it is very clear where the Liberal government stands, heading into the next provincial election. The government is committed to making investments in care so everyone in Ontario can thrive, but Ontario’s Conservatives have decided to take a different approach, threatening billions of dollars in across-the-board cuts that would cause deep and lasting damage in communities like ours.”
Other candidates in Dufferin-Caledon weren’t as enthused.
“It’s fiscally irresponsible, which is something Ontario cannot afford,” Green candidate Laura Campbell declared.
She added the Green party supports most of what the government is proposing, but she stressed the need to be honest about how it’s all going to be paid for. She agreed more money is needed for things like hospitals, mental health and caring for seniors.
“I just don’t trust the Liberals to do it in a way to keep the Province fiscally stable over the next 10 to 15 years,” she remarked, adding if they had spent money on these policies over the last 15 years, they would have been in place by now.
“I thought it was bad news for the taxpayers, that now the government borrows the money we’re going to have to pay back later,” commented Libertarian candidate Jeff Harris.
He pointed out that interest on the debt is up to $12 billion per year, and he said the government is now borrowing to cover those payments, “which makes no financial sense at all.”
Harris also said the Liberals are saying one in four Ontarians have a substance abuse or mental health problem, justifying the increase in spending.
“I think they’re exaggerating numbers,” he commented. “I just don’t believe it.”
He also cited plans to spend $5 million to promote concussion awareness, but argued there are already teachers and physical education staff on the payroll to do that.
“It shouldn’t cost $5 million,” he said.
Trillium Party candidate Andrew Nowell said the budget underestimates people.
“To me, it’s just adding to the voter mistrust,” he remarked. “I don’t think it’s going to work at all.”
“They’re not giving enough credit to the people,” he added.

         

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