Friday, 19 April, 2019

No big-project deliverables for Northern Ontario in provincial budget

Vic Fedeli at lectern Vic Fedeli Ontario’s finance minister speaks at the budget-day lockup in downtown Toronto
Priscilla Morrison | 13 April, 2019, 04:10

"We are restoring sustainability to government finances in order to protect what matters most", said Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli. "Our government stands firmly on the side of hard-working taxpayers".

Something the budget did not include: a gas tax increase.

A press release from the provincial government said it has reduced the deficit by $3.3 billion, going from $15 billion to a "projected" $11.7 billion for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

The 2019 Ontario Budget was tabled this afternoon by Doug Ford's government.

"When you make these kind of changes you have to recognize that they will have (social) impacts and plan for those impacts", Horwath said.

That said, based on this budget, Ford's PCs are halfway to being Liberals.

"The only new spending can be attributed to different accounting methods between the Tories and their predecessors", she said.

As with last year's campaign promises, the Ford government will honour the previous Wynne government's commitment on resource revenue sharing with First Nation communities, but seeks to share and extend that wealth with all Northern communities.

Interim Liberal leader John Fraser said he can't understand the Tory "obsession" with pet projects like new licence plates and tailgating.

"They inherited a disastrous financial situation and they've tried to balance fiscal responsibility against the continuing needs of the people while constrained by enormous record debt", he said.

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Ford not only hasn't frozen government spending at what he described during the election as unsustainable levels under the previous Liberal government, which the Liberals announced at $158.5 billion last year, he's increasing it to $163.4 billion this year, $165.6 billion in 2020-21, $168.2 billion in 2021-22, $170.7 billion in 2022-23 and $173.2 billion in 2023-24.

Opposition parties noted the budget cuts $1 billion from the children and social services budget.

They will receive $133 million less in this fiscal year than the $456 million it had anticipated.

The 8 cents in savings on every dollar spent isn't actually a cut in spending but rather, "savings and cost avoidance" between now and 2023-24 by not spending every dollar the Liberals had promised to spend.

The new plates feature white lettering on a blue background (as opposed to the blue lettering on the white background of the outgoing plates), the tri-petal Ontario Trillium logo in the center, and of course the new slogan, "A Place to Grow".

Horwath joked that having a licence plate that mirrored Ford party colours might cause a lot of rear-end accidents.

This year's budget lays out the government's plan to introduce legislation to allow for insurance companies to offer better coverage options based on the driver's credit history or by agreeing to use preferred providers for auto fix or health care services.

The government will spend an additional $450 million on health care than planned, due to a new compensation agreement with doctors, increased need for cancer treatment, higher drug costs and improvements to addiction services.

The budget uses the example of a single parent earning $40,000 a year with a 14-year-old would see $590 a year, while a two-income couple making $70,000 and $50,00 a year with two younger children would get $2,210 back.

The government is also ending the Estate Administration Tax for taxable estates with assets of $50,000 or less on January 1, and reducing it by $250 for larger estates.

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