The Liberal government used its majority today to pass the Ontario budget, which clears the way for the sale of Hydro One, the huge electrical transmission utility.
The Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats had urged the government to separate the Hydro One sale from the omnibus budget bill, warning electricity rates will soar even higher once it is privatized.
Once the bill gets royal assent, it immediately removes oversight of Hydro One by the provincial ombudsman, auditor general, financial accountability officer, integrity commissioner and privacy commissioner.
Ombudsman André Marin recently released a scathing report into 10,700 complaints about erroneous bills and "abominable" customer service by Hydro One, something he warned he will no longer have the power to investigate.
The government hopes to raise $9 billion by selling 60 per cent of Hydro One, and promises to use $5 billion to pay down hydro debt and $4 billion to invest in public transit and infrastructure projects.
The budget contained good news for parents, students and seniors.
Child benefit to increase
The maximum annual Ontario Child Benefit will increase to $1,336 per child next month, and the government says it will modernize the Ontario Student Assistance Program to strengthen financial assistance for students.
Ontario will invest more than $750 million over the next three years "to support people of all ages who require care in their home or in their community," and provide almost $900 million over 10 years "to address critical maintenance repairs and upgrades to existing postsecondary facilities."
"The passage of the 2015 Budget supports critical investments in Ontario's future to preserve and enhance quality of life for people all across our province, while implementing a fiscally prudent path to balance," Minister of Finance Charles Sousa said in a statement.
Several anti-contraband measures are also part of the budget. They include assisting the OPP to address the link between contraband tobacco and organized crime, and authorizing a vehicle to be stopped, detained and searched if there are reasonable grounds to believe it contains raw leaf tobacco.