Ontario Liberals seek support on youth employment, budget

Premier Kathleen Wynne is hoping that opposition parties will take a good look at a youth-employment program the Liberals want to bring forward in Ontario, as she believes it deserves their support.

Premier says opposition should consider budget before passing judgment

The premier and her government face a crucial week at Queen’s Park. 2:13

Premier Kathleen Wynne is hoping that opposition parties will take a good look at a youth-employment program the Liberals want to bring forward in Ontario, as she believes it deserves their support.

The Liberals want to put $295 million over two years, into a group of four funds that will be designed to help get young people on a solid career path.

The program will be detailed in the upcoming budget, but the premier was touting its benefits on Monday.

"When young people across Ontario are able to find meaningful work, their communities thrive and we all prosper," Wynne told reporters Monday, when announcing the details at a Toronto youth employment services centre.

One of the largest proposed investments would be a $195-million Ontario Youth Employment Fund that the premier said would help "expand" opportunities for youth across the province.

Wynne said the government would also like to provide funds to help young entrepreneurs and to help commercialize new ideas. The Liberals also want to create a fund "to identify and address skills gaps," by building partnerships among business, labour, educators and youth.

"These four initiatives would not only give our young people a leg up in the job market, they’d ensure that our youth are equipped with the skills that employers are looking for," the premier said.

Wynne said it is her hope that both opposition parties will look at this proposal and say it is "a very good thing" and support it.

Budget deserving of consideration, Wynne says

The premier made similar comments about the wider budget the government will be tabling on Thursday.

"I hope that both parties look at this budget, ask themselves whether it meets the needs of their constituents and the people of Ontario and then make their determination based on that," Wynne said.

"That's how we’ve developed the budget and how I hope they will consider it."

The minority Liberals need the support of at least one opposition party in order to have the budget pass.

Currently, the Liberals hold just 51 seats in the 107-seat legislature, while the Progressive Conservatives hold 36 seats and the New Democrats 18 seats.

Two seats that were recently vacated by former Liberal cabinet ministers Dwight Duncan and Chris Bentley remain empty.

Asked whether she felt the New Democrats would support the budget, Wynne said that both opposition parties should be able to get behind it.

"The reality is that there is a lot of common ground between us and certainly the NDP, but I believe that people who are part of the Progressive Conservative constituency also have children who can’t find a job," Wynne said.

"I believe that there are people who are part of the Progressive Conservative constituency who need home care for their loved ones."

However, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was skeptical of what the Liberals say they will be offering in the budget.

"Liberals made lots of promises, and then we find out after that they were hollow, or that they weren't followed up on," she said.

"So we're going to wait and see what the budget says itself on Thursday and spend some time on that."

Non-confidence motion

Meanwhile, the Progressive Conservatives introduced a non-confidence motion, which cites  the soaring costs of the Liberals decision to cancel gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga, which will be at least $315 million altogether.  

Wynne said in question period Monday that the Opposition should instead wait for the vote on Thursday's budget.

"The fact that we're introducing the budget on Thursday gives this parliament the opportunity to vote on and express confidence or non-confidence in this government," she said.

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak said the vote would give all parties a chance to address the impact of the gas-plant controversy on their confidence in the government.

"It'll give Ontarians a voice through all three parties, including the NDP, a chance to express if people still have confidence in the Liberal government after this fiasco where they put the Liberal party interests ahead of the interests of average families," said Hudak.

"Incompetence is one thing, but a blatant disregard for taxpayers' money is something else."

Under Ontario's rules all parties would have to consent before the non-confidence motion could be called for a vote.

CBC provincial affairs reporter Mike Crawley said because the Liberals and NDP are unlikely to consent, the PC's non-confidence motion poses no real threat to Wynne's government.

The auditor general reported the cost of halting the Mississauga gas plant in mid-construction, which came just days before the 2011 election, was $275 million, $85 million more than the Liberals had been claiming.

The Liberals say cancelling the Oakville plant cost $40 million, but the auditor's report into that energy project isn't due until late summer.

With reports from the CBC's Mike Crawley and The Canadian Press