Ontario's Tories don't plan to balance books until after election

Henrietta Strickland
April 12, 2019

Overall hospital spending will go up by $384 million - which is a two-per-cent increase over past year.

The budget constrains spending growth, and shows cuts in post-secondary and social services, but is still almost $5 billion larger than the last budget from the previous Liberal government.

Thursday's budget featured a free dental program for low-income seniors, which was being welcomed by many advocates for the elderly, although Ottawa Centre NDP MPP Joel Harden noted that it is only available to individuals with incomes below $19,300, far less than a similar program in Alberta.

The government also plans to allow bars, restaurants and other licensed establishments to serve alcohol starting at 9 a.m. This is why the government plans to expand the sale of beer and wine to corner stores, big box stores and more grocery stores.

"A Place to Grow" is now the official slogan for the new blue licence plates in the province.

"There are far too many low income seniors who can not get dental care, and now that care will be provided to them with this budget", Romano said, adding the province is putting $384 million into hospital budgets, along with an additional $267 million into community and home care programs.

The government said it would work with "willing partners to ensure sustainable development in the North", where the government says 354,000 people were employed a year ago.

Sudbury MPP Jamie West said Thursday he can't understand why the Tories focused so much on things such as easing liquor laws, creating a new provincial logo and bringing in new license plates.

"Performance-based funding pits one university against another, it generates inequities across the university system" and nearly never achieves the targeted improvements, said Gyllian Phillips, the group's president. "There's nobody saying, 'We need a new logo". "It sends a message to the world that we are serious about fiscal sustainability, about protecting front-line services". "We should be paying for the the autism program, our hospitals, our long-term care centres - the stuff that is most important to people".

Concerning to him is the cap on health care spending, which could leave already struggling hospital budgets in even worse shape.

Interim Liberal leader John Fraser said he can not understand the government's "obsession" with alcohol when it should be focused on health care and education.

Finance officials said that information will come out when the government tables its spending estimates in the next few weeks.

"I'm going to be pushing pretty hard on that one because it's one of the areas we're most interested in seeing progress", Gravelle said. Regulations are also changing to allow tailgating parties near sports events across the province.

"I'm not scared, we've been doing this for hundreds of years. Those aren't things that needs to be solved this time".

The Ontario government is planning to run deficits for the next four years, adding to a relative debt burden that now ranks as the second highest among the provinces.

"There's nothing concrete, right, that says we're going to look at this and we're going to invest", he said.

In fact, the Progressive Conservatives, without raising taxes, will spend more than the Kathleen Wynne Liberal government they defeated in June.

Changes such as social assistance reforms, closing spaces and facilities in the youth justice system, and "streamlining" administration are expected to help reduce children's and social services sector costs by $1 billion - or two per cent - over three years.

- Ontario has also started looking at how to constrain growth in public sector wages.

Ford's election platform promised a one percentage point cut to the corporate tax rate from 11.5 per cent to 10.5 per cent and a pledge to lower the manufacturing and processing rate by the same amount.

Gravelle did find some positives in the budget, such as the introduction of a business incentive program in the place of a corporate tax cut and an expansion to the Northern Ontario Internship Program that removes the requirement for participants to be recent post-secondary graduates. In addition to tackling the deficit, the government is also taking aim at the net debt - now pegged at $343 billion - through ensuring surpluses and unused reserve or contingency funds go to paying it down.

Mamakwa, a member of the Oji-Cree Kingfisher Lake First Nation, said that many of budget's cuts directly impact First Nations people in Ontario."Anything we do as Indigenous People in Ontario.we're always impacted at different levels".

The province said it heard from more than 33,000 consumers and businesses during consultations on alcohol availability that helped inform its decisions.

The budget was thin on details of what services will be cut in order to meet those new spending targets.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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