Ontario election averted as budget bill passes

The Ontario government's budget bill passed third reading at Queen's Park today, with the New Democrats abstaining from the voting, meaning a summer election is unlikely.

NDP abstains, allowing Liberals to out-vote Tories

Premier Dalton McGuinty acknowledged Wednesday that he has faced new challenges in leading a minority government. His comments came on the day that his government's budget bill passed in the legislature, two months after it was first introduced. (CBC)

Ontario’s Liberal government has seen its budget bill pass at Queen’s Park, which means a summer election is unlikely.

The 52-35 vote in favour of the bill occurred just after 12:15 p.m. ET.

The Progressive Conservatives present in the legislature voted against the budget, while the governing Liberals supported it. The New Democrats abstained from voting, which allowed the bill to pass.

That means a summer election is now unlikely, as the Liberals had signalled they would not call an election if the New Democrats allowed the bill to pass.

As Premier Dalton McGuinty put it to reporters hours after the vote, "in the end, working together, we found a way to make our minority government work."

The governing Liberals had been squabbling with the New Democrats in recent days, accusing NDP Leader Andrea Horwath of reneging on a commitment to get the budget passed.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said her party managed to make some positive changes to the budget bill before it was passed. (CBC)

Last week, the Liberals were furious as the New Democrats teamed with the Tories to make changes to the budget during committee hearings.

Those changes came after the government had made prior concessions to convince the New Democrats to help them move the budget through the legislature. Those concessions included a new surtax for Ontarians earning more than $500,000 annually and delaying scheduled corporate tax cuts

The CBC’s Mike Crawley tweeted that the tax hike required a separate vote to pass because it amended the Taxpayer Protection Act.

The New Democrats and Liberals supported it on Wednesday, helping pass the motion by a margin of 68 to 34 in a separate vote that followed the vote on the budget bill.

NDP sees positive changes to bill

With the budget bill drama over, members of the legislature will now leave Queen’s Park behind and the spring session is adjourned.

On Wednesday afternoon, Horwath said "there are lots of parts of the budget" that New Democrats still have concerns with, but she believes they were able to make some positive changes to the bill.

"Nobody got their own way, but I think we were able to achieve some positive changes to that budget bill that are going to help," Horwath said.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said the budget does not do enough to create jobs or trim Ontario’s debt. (CBC)

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, on the other hand, saw the budget that passed as one that is not doing enough to cut down Ontario’s debt, or to create jobs.

"This budget compounds the problem, it makes matters worse," Hudak told reporters on Wednesday.

Reflecting back on the recent session, McGuinty acknowledged that leading a minority government has given him new challenges he hasn’t had to face in the past.

But he said that it is imperative for his government to live up to those challenges.

"Making this government work for Ontarians is not an option," McGuinty said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

Heading into the summer, the premier said it is his intent "to keep finding common ground with the opposition parties and to make our government work for Ontarians."

The minority Liberals currently have 53 seats in the legislature, while the Tories have 36 and the New Democrats are at 17. One seat is vacant.

The Tories initially held 37 seats after the election last October, but that changed when veteran MPP Elizabeth Witmer stepped down in April to take a position with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

Since then, her former riding of Kitchener-Waterloo has remained open. The premier has still not called a byelection in the two months since Witmer’s resignation.

With files from The Canadian Press