Ontario’s governing Liberals will once again need the support of the New Democrats to get their budget passed, but Premier Kathleen Wynne admits the two parties haven’t been seeing eye to eye lately and there is not much room for negotiation at this point.
"The fact is that we have had different views on what is good policy for the province and quite frankly, it has been very unclear what the NDP is putting forward as their vision of the province," Wynne said Wednesday afternoon. "That’s just a reality."
Wynne said she believes her government’s pending budget, coming down tomorrow, has elements that should appeal to both opposition parties.
But the premier acknowledged that the New Democrats' next moves will ultimately decide if Ontarians head to the polls this summer.
"My hope is that we’ll be able to find a way to get the budget passed," Wynne said.
For its part, the third party was not tipping its hand on Wednesday as to what it will do.
"What we're going to do is have a look at that budget, listen to the cues we get from the people of Ontario, and make a decision," NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Wednesday.
The Liberals’ minority government has looked for the NDP to help pass the past two budgets, both of which got no support from the Progressive Conservatives.
Budget will be fully unveiled Thursday
Within 24 hours, Finance Minister Charles Sousa will deliver his budget in the legislature, laying out Ontario’s spending plans and priorities.
Sousa has said that the $11.3-billion provincial deficit will rise in the next couple of years, but the budget will be balanced by 2017-18.
Many details have leaked out about the budget ahead of time, with the Tories announcing a month ago that they had obtained internal government documents that spelled out the Liberals’ plans for various funding announcements.
On Wednesday, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak addressed the budget and the details that have been telegraphed about it, in his first exchange during question period.
"I see your budget, I mean pretty well everything now has been leaked by your budget-leaking team. It appears that you’ve utterly given up on trying to even pretend to balance the budget," Hudak said, addressing the premier.
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"You’re going to spend money, you’re going to increase taxes, you’re going to actually increase both the deficit and taxes, which is an incredible feat."
The budget will be formally unveiled in the legislature on Thursday afternoon. But some of the details that have leaked out include an intention to spend $29 billion on transit and infrastructure projects over the next decade, as well as $2.5 billion to entice companies to hire in Ontario.
Wynne said Wednesday that her finance minister will unveil a budget that is "designed to build opportunity today and to secure the future for the people of Ontario."
The premier said her government is trying to create jobs, while the Progressive Conservative leader favours policies that would see jobs move elsewhere.
Tomorrow’s budget is also expected to introduce income tax increases for "higher income earners," though the Toronto Star has reported that it will be a levy only on income above a threshold of $150,000.
The budget is also expected to bring in tax increases on aviation fuel and tobacco.
The CBC’s Genevieve Tomney has reported that Liberal insiders say there will be some surprises in the budget on Thursday.