Ontario Liberals reintroduce their budget
Finance Minister Charles Sousa gives nod to budget déjà vu at start of speech
More than two months after Finance Minister Charles Sousa stood up and tabled the budget in the Ontario legislature, he did the same thing again on Monday.
The Liberals first introduced their $130.4-billion spending plan on May 1, but they would soon learn that the New Democrats weren't going to support it.
And because the Progressive Conservatives weren't going to help it get passed either, the Liberals decided to call an election before seeing the budget formally rejected in the Legislature.
Fast forward to June 12, the night the Liberals won a majority government, meaning that they would be able to pass the budget that they wanted in the first place.
So despite criticism from opposition parties, the Liberals said they would be moving ahead with the spending blueprint they brought forward in May.
Commitment to infrastructure spending
As previously revealed, the Liberals have vowed to spend $130 billion on infrastructure in a decade. That includes $29 billion for public transit and transportation projects.
They've also promised to provide $2.5 billion in corporate grants to keep businesses in the province and lure others here.
The province will be hiking income tax for those making more than $150,000 a year, and boosting levies on aviation fuel and tobacco. The Liberals also intend to create a pension plan that will involve contributions from workers and their employers.
Overall, the Liberals are forecasting an increase in spending by some $3.4 billion, or $900 million more than had been projected in last year's budget. Total program spending is expected to climb to $119.4 billion.
The CBC's Genevieve Tomney reported Monday that the government didn't even bother to reprint the budget, as its content is essentially the same.
The Liberals did make minor changes to the budget bill, folding in other pieces of legislation that died when the snap election was called.
They include removing domestic content requirements for solar and wind energy projects, hiking the aviation fuel tax from 2.7 cents a litre to 6.7 cents over four years starting in September and freezing MPP salaries until the deficit is eliminated.
'As I was saying...'
In a nod to the drama that unfolded since the first attempt to bring in the budget, Sousa began his Monday afternoon budget speech with: "Mr. Speaker, as I was saying …"
His crack drew some laughs from members of the legislature.
Sousa continued with the task at hand.
"Seventy-four days ago, we tabled a plan in this legislature for the people of this province. It was a good one for a brighter, stronger future, a plan that creates greater opportunity and security for Ontarians in all corners of our province."
Sousa said the Liberals had committed to reintroducing the budget if they were re-elected, which prompted the process that unfolded on Monday.
During his speech, Sousa reiterated the government's intent to balance the budget by 2017-18.
"We will control expenses, we will eliminate the deficit and we'll continue to cut where we can, but we will continue to invest where we must," he said.
The opposition contends that the government won't be able to eliminate the province's $12.5-billion deficit on its planned timetable without making cuts or layoffs.
'Real problems' beneath surface of budget
Earlier this month, Moody's changed its outlook on Ontario's debt rating from stable to negative.
Opposition parties are warning that a downgrade on the rating itself may be in the cards, as a result of the budget.
Interim PC Leader Jim Wilson said Monday that Ontario can’t afford to have a "disingenuous" budget that hikes taxes and spending.
"It is immoral to give people false hope with a budget ... only to have to take away services and programs when the lenders put a gun to your head and say, 'Your line of credit has dried up,"' said Wilson, who took the reins of the PC Party after Tim Hudak stepped down as leader on July 2.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the budget was disguising public sector cuts the Liberals will make as they try to balance the books.
"You simply have to scratch the surface and you see some real problems," said Horwath.
"One of the big problems that we see is a lack of any new plan for good jobs, we see a fire sale of public assets, we see huge implications around cuts to jobs. None of these things are progressive."
Premier Kathleen Wynne had vowed during the election campaign not to slash the public sector. That contrasted with the Tories' controversial plan to cut 100,000 public-sector jobs.
Wilson suggested Monday that voters had punished the Tories over their public-sector reduction plan, but not necessarily endorsed the Liberals’ budget.
"I don't remember going to any door or anywhere where anybody talked about the Liberals' budget," he said. "They certainly did talk about the 100,000-jobs cut."
With files from The Canadian Press and the CBC's Genevieve Tomney