Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson shared his joy about the 2014 Ontario budget and he’s particularly giddy about today’s announcement of funding to help clean up the Ottawa River.
The budget, unveiled Thursday afternoon in Toronto, promised to help municipalities by continuing to upload money for social programs, and featured billions of dollars for transit, including money for Ottawa’s light rail project.
The most exciting news for Watson, which topped his list of priorities, was a promise of money for cleaning up the Ottawa River.
A news conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at the Bytown Museum, which overlooks the Ottawa River, where Watson will join six local Liberal MPPs — Phil McNeely, Madeleine Meilleur, Yasir Naqvi, John Fraser, Bob Chiarelli and Grant Crack.
It’s expected they’ll announce $65 million in funding for the river action plan, Watson said Thursday. The city has already spent $140 million as the plan has entered its fifth year and it has budgeted $195 million in capital spending for a sewage storage tunnel.
Upper levels of government are asked to help with the $130 million.
“We talk to people everyday across the city who are disgusted that we're still dumping sewage into the river,” said Graham Saul, head of Ecology Ottawa. “(But) it sounds like the provincial government is on course to support the City of Ottawa’s plan to stop the dumping of sewage into the Ottawa River.”
Ottawa River funding delay up to NDP's Horwath
Watson said this budget is good for Ottawa and he’d like to see it pass, which will come down to NDP leader Andrea Horwath.
PC leader Tim Hudak refused to support what many are calling a “left-leaning” budget that includes more spending and a rising deficit. Horwath chose to abstain from making a decision Thursday, but Premier Kathleen Wynne gave her one week to make a decision that could potentially lead to an election if Horwath sides with Hudak.
It’s something that worries Watson and Saul.
“If (the budget is) defeated, we have to go back to square one and start dealing with a new budget, potentially a new government,” Watson said. “It slows down our progress on light rail for phase two and same with the Ottawa River Action Plan.”
Watson did admit Hudak and Horwath have supported the river plan, so that eases his mind, but it’s not ideal for the city’s timelines.
Ottawa PCs team up to criticize budget
Also on Friday, Hudak and local Tory MPPs — Lisa MacLeod, Steve Clark, Jim McDonell and Randy Hillier — will address the Economic Club of Canada on Friday afternoon at the Ottawa Convention Centre. That will feature some staunch criticism of the budget.
There’s also some concern from the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, which believes the provincial pension plan will be very costly for Ontario’s businesses.
The Chamber of Commerce did not have a problem, though, with the increased income tax for those people who earn $150,000 or more.
Invest Ottawa, meanwhile, is happy about the jobs and prosperity fund. CEO Bruce Lazenby believes that will help Ottawa employers compete on the global stage.