Northern Ontario got short shrift in Thursday’s provincial budget, according to opposition MPPs in the region.
“Northern Ontario was only mentioned twice, and that was in passing,” Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli said after the minority Liberal government unveiled its $127.6-billion spending plan for the next fiscal year.
Fedeli said even the much-heralded Ring of Fire mining project in Northwestern Ontario, prominently mentioned in the last provincial budget, has totally fallen out of sight. “That means, to us, that it is no longer a priority for the government.”
Fedeli said also absent from the budget was any mention of Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, which the province announced it was divesting in March, 2012. “That really surprised me because it leaves a $500-million hole in the budget,” Fedeli said.
Among provisions in the budget are a $260-million boost for home care health services, a $295-million plan to fight youth unemployment, a 15% auto insurance rate cut and assistance for people on welfare and disability.
The budget projects an $11.7-billion deficit.
“Now that we’ve seen the budget, there is absolutely nothing in it for anybody who is unemployed. There is nothing to create jobs. There is nothing to grow the economy. There is nothing for business development,” Fedeli said.
“It’s a tax and spend budget.”
He said two Tory proposals – increased employment opportunities for the disabled and the possibility of pooled pension plans for private-sector employees without a pension – will be studied by the Liberals.
Overall, though, he said it is “time to change the team. This is a worn-out government with a worn-out plan.”
And while Tory leader Tim Hudak has already indicated he will vote against the budget in a non-confidence vote that would bring the government down if successful, Timiskaming-Cochrane MPP John Vanthof said the New Democratic Party will go to the people to decide whether to prop up the Liberals.
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