Provincial candidates largely negative on Liberal government’s 2018 budget

April 8, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

In a dramatic, yet not altogether shocking, turn of events, the Liberal government last week completed something of a political U-turn, unveiling an ambitious 2018 budget that calls for a return to deficits, with substantial spending and investment across Ontario.

In his presentation to Queen’s Park last Wednesday, Finance Minister Charles Sousa spoke at length about planning for a brighter future in Ontario. Not that the past hasn’t been great, Mr. Sousa says, citing Ontario’s growing economy, which he claims is the best among all Canadian provinces and better than all G7 nations. Still, the government is forecasting for a $6.7 billion deficit this year to improve on what has already been improved on in recent years.

The Liberals identified three key pillars in the budget, which Mr. Sousa noted would help all Ontario residents – making life in Ontario more affordable, helping everyone get the care they need and creating more opportunities that benefit all Ontarians. Top projects include providing free prescription drugs for all seniors, offering free preschool child care for families and improving mental health services across the province.

The budget also provides $935 million in new funding to support well-paying jobs, a home maintenance boost of us to $750 every year for seniors 75 and over who run a household, better services for Ontarians with developmental disabilities and free college and university tuition for more than 225,000 students.

Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones was, unsurprisingly, heavily critical of the budget, calling it a “flip flop” by the Liberals.

“That could not have been more of a pre-election budget,” Ms. Jones told the Citizen. “After spending weeks crisscrossing the province making promise after promise, after years of neglect and mismanagement, we are expected to forgive and forget.”

She added, “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.”

For Bob Gordanier, Dufferin-Caledon’s Liberal candidate, this wasn’t an altogether bad budget. With investments that he believes will positively impact upon all Ontarians’ way of life, he commended Mr. Sousa and his team for their hard work in putting together a plan to improve the way of life for millions of residents across the province.

“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,” Mr. Gordanier said. “This budget is one of the most progressive and people-focused Ontario has ever seen. Unprecedented investments in health care, long-term care and child care will help families live full and meaningful lives.”

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Mr. Gordanier pointed out the budget commits to an additional $500 million over three years to expand broadband connectivity, increasing access to pharmacare and providing more money 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,” Mr. Gordanier stated. “With this budget, it is very clear where the Liberal government stands heading into the next election. This government is committed to making investments in case so everyone in Ontario can thrive.”

He added, “Only the Ontario Liberal team has a plan to make the investments people in Dufferin-Caledon need and deserve.”

Despite Mr. Gordanier’s rousing approval of the budget, other candidates in Dufferin-Caledon were not so enthused with the document. Green candidate Laura Campbell labelled the budget “irresponsible”, stating it was something Ontario, in its current state, could not afford.

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,” Ms. Campbell told the Citizen. She noted that, had the Liberals spent money on these policies over the past 15 years, they wouldn’t need to invest so drastically today.

The New Democratic Party hasn’t nominated a candidate in Dufferin-Caledon, but leader Andrea Horwath said Monday the NDP would “do better” than the Liberal government’s plan to offer free child care for preschoolers starting in 2020.

“I think we can actually do better,” the NDP leader told a gathering of more than 2,000 child-care workers employed by the YMCA of Greater Toronto, the province’s largest child-care operator.

“We simply must make child care affordable for every family in Ontario. Not just for the parents of children of certain ages, but”for the parents of every age,” she said.

Infant and toddler care is the most expensive and must be addressed for women to have a “real choice” to return to work after having a baby, she said, adding details will be released in the NDP election platform.

Libertarian candidate Jeff Harris says he’s seen and heard enough from the current Liberal government. He criticized their 2018 budget for its dependence, once again, in borrowing money to pay for key services.

“I thought it was bad news to the taxpayers, that now the government borrows the money we’re going to have to pay back later,” Mr. Harris said. He pointed out that interest on the provincial debt has risen to an eye-watering $12 billion per year and that the government is now borrowing to cover those payments.

“It makes no financial sense at all,” Mr. Harris added.

While the Liberals have made note of concerning statistics regarding the number of Ontarians dealing with substance abuse or mental health problems – one in four residents according to the sitting government – to justify the increase in spending, Mr. Harris believes that is simply typical pre-budget propaganda.

“I think they’re exaggerating the numbers,” he said. “I just don’t believe it.”

Trillium Party candidate Andrew Nowell also expressed his concern with the budget, believing it underestimates the people of Ontario.

“To me, it’s just adding to the voter mistrust,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to work at all. They’re not giving enough credit to the people.”

Referencing the Liberal government’s previous promise to balance the budget, Ms. Jones commented that Premier Wynne could no longer be trusted to lead the province forward.

“We will not forget that the Liberal’s 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 more than $325 billion. The Wynne Liberals breaking their promise to balance the budget will hurt families. The interest in the debt alone costs taxpayers more than $1 billion a month.”

She concluded, “We can do better. We need to do better. And under a Doug Ford Progressive Conservative government, we will do better.”

With files from Bill Rea

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