Martin promises Ontario another $5.75B
The stakes were high, and so was the payout, as leaders of two Liberal governments sat down on Saturday to heal a festering wound in their relationship.
After almost nine hours of talking with Prime Minister Paul Martin, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty emerged with a $5.75-billion promise of additional federal support over the next five years.
The deal includes a package of resettlement funds and language training for new immigrants to Ontario.
Ottawa will give more money to Ontario for job training and additional aid for students and universities.
The two leaders agreed to co-operate on meat inspection services, and the federal government will take over administration of corporate income tax in Ontario.
And there is a promise of federal funds to help Ontario shut its coal-fired power plants.
McGuinty went into the talks asking for $5 billion in just one year to help close what he calls a $23-billion gap between what Ontario pays to Ottawa and what comes back.
The five-year agreement doesn't go that far, and at a late-night news conference, McGuinty said he would continue to fight for fairness from the federal government.
The deal comes as Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara prepares to table his budget on Wednesday.
McGuinty's Liberal government inherited a massive deficit from the previous Conservative administration and it has desperately been seeking ways to get out of the red.
Martin was also anxious to end the fighting with Ontario, whose 106 seats are crucial to his minority government, both in upcoming votes in the House of Commons and in the inevitable next election.