Northern Ont. interests lacking in budget, critics say

Sudbury's mayor says she would have liked more of a focus on northern Ontario in the provincial budget.

Northern leaders say infrastructure, home care, Ring of Fire not given enough focus in Ont. budget

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Finance Minister Charles Sousa. Sousa said, with the most recent budget, the province is committed to helping all the people of Ontario and to eliminating the deficit by 2017-18. Critics in northern Ontario say that help doesn't appear to support northern Ontario's interests. (CBC)

Sudbury's mayor says she would have liked more of a focus on northern Ontario in the provincial budget.

Marianne Matichuk was at Queen's Park when the province presented its bill yesterday. If the budget passes, the government will spend $100 million dollars on infrastructure in rural and northern Ontario, but Matichuk said the region's crumbling infrastructure needs more attention.

"We have very, very small tax bases," she said. "Yet we're the places in Ontario that are actually giving a lot of taxes to the province through mining and other things in northern Ontario, and they're growth areas."

Matichuk said she will be speaking with the province's Minister of Infrastructure on Friday and will ask Glen Murray about securing funding for the Maley Drive extension in Sudbury.

Sticking to party lines

Meanwhile, northern Ontario MPPs are sticking to their party lines as they react to the new provincial budget.

Nickel Belt New Democrat France Gelinas said she won't say yet if she will support the budget bill — and the Conservatives and Liberals differ on what they think the budget means for the north.

Gelinas said the NDP had northern Ontario in mind when it suggested the province should spend more on home care, as there are longer waits for home care here in the north.

The money is in the budget, she noted, but there are no details on how those wait times will be improved.

"Will it be used to increase the profit margin of for profit homecare delivery? What will be used for," Gelinas questioned.

Conservative MPP Vic Fedeli said he was concerned the Ring of Fire wasn't mentioned in the finance minister's speech yesterday.

"That's very bad news because it means this is no longer a priority for this government."

Liberal Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti said the budget includes $5 million for development in the Ring of Fire, but said the details hadn't been worked out.

"The Ring of Fire is absolutely a priority," he said. "This is a potential development that would see jobs created for the next several hundred years."

The budget bill will only pass if the NDP supports it.

Other budget highlights include money for infrastructure, social assistance reforms and a promise to lower car insurance premiums.