3 things Windsor-Essex should look for in the Ontario budget

Some leaders in Windsor-Essex told CBC News what they're ultimately looking for in the provincial budget.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa will deliver the Ontario budget Thursday afternoon. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

While the province's finance minister said the provincial government is not ruling out tax hikes to eliminate the $7.5 billion deficit by 2017, the government will be focused on finding other ways get there. But, some leaders in Windsor-Essex told CBC News it will ultimately affect our region.

Here's are three things Windsorites should look for in the budget: 

1. Health care 

While the CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital said he's confident capital expenditure is allocated for the mega-hospital project, he's more concerned about how the government will balance its budget through job cuts. 

"We need to get through this," he said. "The government needs to balance its budget and we need to recognize we need to be part of the solution. It's going to be difficult. But, it's going to happen. The numbers don't come out of the air." 

But, Musyj said he's also keeping an eye on funding for infrastructure. 

"Areas like Toronto have received over $4 billion in capital investment and hospital infrastructure over the last five years and 10 years ago, the three acute care hospitals got $134 million," he said. "Windsor-Essex deserves at least that, if not more. We're no less important than that." 

2. High-speed rail 

Movement has started on a high-speed link between Toronto and Windsor. The Ontario government wants to see a proposal completed for a Toronto-to-Windsor high-speed rail project by October. The government says the rail project will be part of the $130 billion the province is spending on infrastructure over a 10 year period.

Ward 8 councillor Bill Marra told CBC News he does not see a reason why the project would not include Windsor-Essex, as promised.

"I'm hopeful and I'm optimistic. I don't have any reason to believe otherwise. We're all going to listen, to not only that part of the budget, other aspects of it," he said. "Clearly the provincial government is facing major financial challenges, however there is a commitment to invest in priorities and we're hearing that from the federal government as well." 

3. Jobs

Windsor leads the country in unemployment, although the jobless rate fell to 9.3 per cent in January, down from 9.7 per cent in December.

As bad as Windsor's unemployment rate has been in recent years, youth are suffering even more when it comes to trying to find work. The youth unemployment rate was a staggering 22 per cent in January, according to the latest figures from Statistics Canada. Those numbers are up from last year when the youth jobless rate averaged 19.9 per cent.

Matt Marchand, CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce said he hopes the Liberals will put money on the table to support jobs in the region. 

"Let's see if we can put some people to work through the skills shortage. We have 500-600 jobs, minimum, probably more," said Matt Marchand. "We have expansions that are not happening by small and medium sized businesses because they can't find anybody to do the work.

"In the agriculture community, they're also short on labour as well. So, if you add in all that, there's a tremendous opportunity to put some folks to work and generate more jobs."

Marchand went on to mention the skills gap is costing the province about $24 billion province-wide and about $600 million locally. 

"If we can employ all those people where there's a skills mismatch or a skills gap, we could probably generate an additional $4 billion a year in terms of revenue to Queen's Park," he said.


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