Thunder Bay

Opposition northern Ontario MPPs say they're disappointed in new provincial budget

Kiiwetinoong New Democrat MPP Sol Mamakwa says the people of northern Ontario "deserve better" than what the provincial government is offering in its newly-released budget.

MPPs say budget makes cuts to natural resources, northern development and Indigenous affairs ministries

Sol Mamakwa, NDP MPP for Kiiwetinoong, says he's disappointed in the new provincial budget. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

Kiiwetinoong New Democrat MPP Sol Mamakwa says the people of northern Ontario "deserve better" than what the provincial government is offering in its newly-released budget.

"Certainly, this government, you can tell that they're taking things away from the children, the most-vulnerable people, students, and those living in rural and northern Ontario," Mamakwa said Thursday from Toronto, after the Ford government's first budget was released.

He also cited cuts to the budget of Ontario's Ministry of Indigenous Affairs.

The government said the ministry's budget was cut from 81 million to about $74 million. However, Mamakwa said there were also tens of millions of dollars allotted for land claims that were also cut from the ministry.

"The bulk of it is settlement payments with First Nations, with about maybe $65 million," Mamakwa said. "That's what I mean by the vulnerable people."

"When we talk about a billion-collar cut from the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services over the next four years, it's certainly concerning."

Mamakwa said education and health care cuts will have a negative impact on Indigenous people in northern Ontario, as well.

"Doug Ford and the government is dragging Ontario further away from reconciliation," he said. "You can tell they're only here to help certain people."

"I heard it loud and clear in the budget speech," Mamakwa said. "I think as northern Ontarians, we deserve so much better, and that people in our area, in the north, deserve a government that shares their priorities."
Finance Minister Vic Fedeli speaks to reporters about his first provincial budget on Thursday afternoon in Toronto. (Pierre-Olivier Bernatchez/CBC)

One highlight of the budget for the government is the Ontario Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit, which would give families with low to moderate incomes up to $6,000 per child under the age of 7, up to $3,750 per child between the ages of seven and 16, and up to $8,250 for a child with a severe disability.

The government is also pledging up to $1 billion over the next five years to create 30,000 new child-care spaces. It also pledges to end to "hallway health care" by proposing to develop 30,000 long-term care beds and improving mental health and addictions supports.

It projects to eliminate the deficit in five years.

Gravelle reacts

Longtime Thunder –Bay Superior North MPP Michael Gravelle said he has concerns with major cuts to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Indigenous Affairs.

Gravelle said the northern development budget was cut by $215 million and $109 million was slashed from natural resources, while Indigenous affairs saw its budget halved. 

"Because the budgets don't tend to provide the full details of the funding allotment, it makes it more difficult to absolutely pin down what those losses are," said Gravelle.

"But, they are reductions in the budget, and they will have a significance in the funding realities that we face in northern Ontario."
Michael Gravelle says he's concerned about cuts to a several ministries that are prominent in northern Ontario. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

Gravelle said he was unsure of the direct impact on programs such as the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, as well as the Northern Highways program.

He said those two programs are also crucial to northerners, with the NOHFC supporting many small organizations throughout the region.

"Like many budgets, it's long on rhetoric, and short on detail."

Gravelle said he was pleased the province will keep funding the Northern Ontario Internship Program, which allows young people to start their careers in northern Ontario.