Reaction to Ontario's latest budget has been mixed — some call the cuts too severe, while others say it does not cut deep enough.
Following are some comments, from business, political and health interests, about the budget released Tuesday by Finance Minister Dwight Duncan:
Tim Hudak, leader, Ontario Progressive Conservatives:
"This is the time for tough and responsible fiscal management. Yet today’s budget is a weak and disappointing response to Ontario’s jobs and spending crisis. In fact, it actually puts up roadblocks to the very economic growth its assumptions are pinned on... At just the time we need to be making Ontario more competitive and restoring business confidence to create jobs, [Premier] Dalton McGuinty is taking $1.5 billion out of the economy over the next three years to pay for his overspending."
Andrea Horwath, leader, Ontario New Democrats:
"For families worried about their jobs, their health and the growing cost of living this budget falls short. We’re going to be listening to the everyday people who will be affected by the budget and we’ll be putting their interests first in the days ahead. We’re committed to making this minority government work as long as it provides results for people....The government seems to be finally admitting that no-strings-attached corporate tax giveaways aren’t creating jobs. Unfortunately, the province has already blown billions on these handouts and plans to do more as soon as we have the money."
Michael Gregory, senior economist, and Robert Kavcic, economist, BMO Capital Markets:
"Finance Minister Duncan said 'for the third year in a row, we have beaten deficit forecasts,' but for the third year in a row, the extended deficit-reduction path has not changed. While the static path to a balanced budget by 2017/2018 is now more credible owing to realistic revenue growth assumptions and a detailed spending restraint plan, serious challenges remain. Among these are push-back from public-sector unions, the political reality of managing a minority government and the always-present demographic pressures on health-care spending. Last year, we said the province was on 'a slow boat to balance.' Today, it’s clear they’re still on the same slow boat, but they now have charts and a compass."
Robert Hogue, senior economist, RBC Economics:
"This was supposed to be the Big One. Ontario’s budget 2012 was built up as one of the toughest budget exercises in the province’s history that would provide the answers to many questions left hanging in the previous two budgets. And, budget 2012 went some way toward addressing the most important question: ‘How will the Ontario government balance its books by 2017/2018?’ But its focus on the next three years stopped it short of offering a complete answer."
Matthew Stewart and Ksenia Bushmeneva, Conference Board of Canada:
"The 2012 Ontario budget sets Ontario’s public sector on a long-term path to frugality. Over the next six years, a program of fiscal austerity will see growth in total program spending average well below one per cent per year. The combination of expenditure and revenue measures places the government on a path to balance its books by 2017–18. But containing costs over such a long-term horizon will be difficult."
Plamen Petkov, Ontario director, Canadian Federation of Independent Business:
"After years of consistent lobbying, the CFIB is pleased that the government has acknowledged the main challenge facing Ontario’s budget is salaries, pensions and the size of the broader public service. The government should be credited with presenting a tough plan to cap program spending increases at one per cent and limit the spiralling costs of public-sector pensions. However, much of this plan depends on public-sector unions putting water in their wine, and accepting restraint in wages, positions and pensions. We’ve seen no evidence that unions will agree to any change regardless of how dire the state of Ontario’s finances."
Dr. Stewart Kennedy, president, Ontario Medical Association:
"The Ontario Medical Association has reviewed the provincial budget documents and has some serious concerns about the government’s ability to appropriately care for our aging and growing population. The government commits in the budget to improving access to doctors and same-day services, but the budget proposes to put a cap on the budget that pays for those things for the next fiscal year."
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president, Ontario Public Service Employees Union:
"The 2012 Budget has failed Ontario on several counts. If this Budget passes, it will hurt people, slow our economy, and sharply increase income inequality in this province."
"It is worth noting that Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has overestimated the provincial deficit every year since the recession began… Clearly, the Minister has worked hard to keep deficit estimates frightening so that the final real result is cheerful. What this means, in simple terms, is that the Minister’s numbers can’t be trusted."