The focus on infrastructure spending and pensions in the re-introduced provincial budget is necessary for Ontario’s economic viability down the road, according to Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Despite a downgrade by credit-rating agency Moody and reports that Ontario lost about 34,000 jobs last month, the Liberal leader said on CBC's Metro Morning Tuesday that the budget was something her party worked on and was prepared to run on given the previous minority government status.
- Ontario Liberals reintroduce their budget
- No 'cuts' but plenty of 'fiscal challenges' in Ontario budget
- Ontario Liberals get set to present their budget again
“We need these investments right now — in infrastructure and in people’s skills and we need a pension plan because we know people need to be able to retire with some security,” Wynne said.
The Liberals have promised to spend $130 billion on infrastructure within a decade, including $29 billion for public transit initiatives.
But opposition leaders have questioned the ruling government’s ability to pay for such big promises without increasing the deficit.
“Building transit is important for people who ride transit and it’s important for people who drive because we want some of those people to get on transit but we also want people to be able to move around,” she said.
“If we don’t make those investments now then our economic viability down the road won’t be what it could be…”
The Liberal government has also promised to provide $2.5 billion in corporate grants to keep businesses in the province and lure others here.
As for Moody’s downgrade of Ontario’s credit rating, Wynne said the decision was made without any new information.
“It’s the same projections; it’s the same budget, the same economic situation that pertained a couple of weeks ago,” she said. “They made a decision and we will work to make sure they are wrong because we have made it very, very clear that we are on track to eliminate the deficit.”
The legislature just recently resumed after the Liberals won a majority government in the June 12 election.
Now the Liberals are in the process of getting their $130.4-billion budget passed, after tabling it for the second time on Monday.
It was previously tabled on May 1, when the Liberals were still a minority government.
But the opposition parties both signalled at that point that they wouldn’t support the budget.
That put Ontario on a path to the election that has returned the Liberals to power, which means the government won’t have to worry about the budget passing this time around.
But the Liberals are facing criticism over their budget, with opposition parties suggesting that it could lead to a debt-rating downgrade for the province and will likely lead to public-sector job cuts.
As a result of the June election, the Liberals hold 58 of the 107 seats in the Ontario Legislature. The Progressive Conservatives have 28 and the New Democrats have 21.
Wynne has served as the Liberal leader for more than a year, after taking the reins from former premier Dalton McGuinty in January of 2013.