Graeme MacKay – Thursday May 2, 2013

By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday May 2, 2013

Budget Day in Ontario

Premier Kathleen Wynne’s minority Liberals will campaign on an NDP-inspired budget if New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath opts to defeat the government and spark a June election.

The spending plan to be introduced by Finance Minister Charles Sousa in the legislature at 4 p.m. Thursday addresses all seven of Horwath’s stated demands for support.

These include a 15-per-cent cut to auto insurance rates, $295 million to create jobs for youth, $260 million to improve home-care health services, and a pledge to force Ottawa to curb some of the benefits big corporations get from the harmonized sales tax.

However, a snap election could still be triggered.

That’s because Horwath must weigh having her budget conditions met with the political damage suffered by the Liberals over their $585-million gas plant fiasco.

One largely symbolic line in Sousa’s budget could give Horwath the excuse she needs to pull the plug on the Grits.

The finance minister said he will be broaching the idea of optional toll lanes — with no dollar figure attached or any timetable proposed, because he doesn’t want to preclude Metrolinx’s forthcoming recommendations — as a way to get the conversation rolling on ways to fund public transit.

“We’re not going to increase taxes. We’re not raising road tolls. We’re giving people a choice to have HOT (high occupancy toll) lanes. It’s a consideration that’s been put forward,” said Sousa, suggesting some high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes for car-poolers could be switched into toll lanes to pay for transit infrastructure. (Source: Toronto Star)