Summer rerun for big spending Ontario budget
Ontario’s newly elected Liberals steamrolled ahead Monday with the same big-spending budget that triggered the June 12 election, despite opposition warnings that the $130.4-billion plan will trigger a downgrade of the province’s debt rating and lead to massive public-sector job cuts.
The Liberals didn’t even bother putting a new cover on the deja-vu document they had tabled back in May, its passage a foregone conclusion now that the party controls the legislature with a majority of seats.
“Ontarians gave our government a strong mandate to implement the budget and the plan that we took to the people,” said Finance Minister Charles Sousa.
The Liberals promise to spend $130 billion on infrastructure over a decade — including $29 billion for public transit and transportation projects — $2.5 billion in corporate grants to lure and keep businesses in the province and $1 billion to build a transportation route to the Ring of Fire mineral deposit in northern Ontario.
They also pledge to build new college and university campuses, create spaces for 15,000 more post-secondary students and increase the number of apprentices training in Ontario.
The province plans to hike taxes for individuals earning more than $150,000 as well as levies on aviation fuel and tobacco, and create an Ontario pension plan that will require contributions from both employees and companies.
Spending is forecast to jump by $3.4 billion this year, $900 million more than projected in the 2013 budget, with program spending expected to climb to $119.4 billion. That’ll push up the deficit to $12.5 billion this year, but the Liberals insist they’ll balance the books in 2017-18.
They are touting the budget, which has slowly leaked out since late March, as a plan that will provide the necessary cash injection to grow Ontario’s economy while holding the line on public sector compensation and finding other savings to staunch the red ink on schedule.
“It’s easy for some to suggest, don’t spend the money, don’t invest in transit and all these other things because it’s too expensive,” said Finance Minister Charles Sousa. “It’s more expensive if we don’t do it today.”
But the opposition parties warn it’s a ticking time bomb that will herald a new wave of public sector job cuts and provoke a downgrade of Ontario’s debt rating, jacking up borrowing costs that are already consuming about $11 billion a year — its fourth-largest expense. (Source: Metroland)