Ontario Liberals won't be 'held hostage' by budget demands
Premier Kathleen Wynne says the Ontario government "will not be held hostage" by a list of demands that the New Democrats want fulfilled to ensure their support of the upcoming budget.
During question period on Tuesday morning, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath pressed the premier on whether she was willing to "commit" to capping executive salaries in the public sector and also to guaranteeing wait-times for home care.
Horwath told the legislature that the New Democrats have laid out clear expectations for the budget.
"If we are going to support a budget, it has to create jobs, strengthen health care and make life more affordable for Ontarians. Will we hear a commitment from the premier today that she will cap executive salaries and ensure that people waiting for home care will have it in five days guaranteed?" Horwath asked.
In response, Wynne said the governing Liberals will invest in the areas of concern that the New Democrat leader had outlined.
But the premier said the Liberals won’t be beholden to a list of opposition demands, and further that the government will continue to do what is best for Ontarians.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa said Monday that the budget will be tabled on May 2.
He faced questions from Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak on Tuesday about the strategy the government is using to tackle the provincial deficit.
The PC leader said the Liberal government has increased spending, despite a swollen deficit.
"If you actually freeze spending today, if you don’t increase spending overall, you can balance the budget within two years," Hudak said during question period.
In response, Sousa said the government had "been extraordinary" in restraining spending and remains focused on eliminating the provincial deficit by 2017-18.
Another year of budget battles?
The budget process appears to be headed toward a confrontation between the governing Liberals and the New Democrats for a second year in a row.
Last year, the New Democrats allowed the budget motion to pass, but squabbling between the third party and the government delayed the passage of the budget bill for weeks.
Then-premier Dalton McGuinty initially said that concessions the government made to gain NDP support made the 2012 budget "stronger." But as the process dragged on, he later accused the New Democrats of turning their backs on a deal reached between the two parties.
It wasn't until June that the 2012 budget bill passed in the legislature. The New Democrats abstained from voting that day.
The Liberals are now in a weaker position in the legislation than they were a year ago, due to the resignation of two members whose seats remain vacant. Currently, the Liberals hold just 51 seats in the legislature, while the Progressive Conservatives hold 36 and the New Democrats 18.