Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris says that the province is no further ahead following the budget agreement between the NDP and the Liberal’s ratified by Tuesday’s vote in the Legislature.
The New Democrats followed through on a promise not to defeat the minority Liberal government by abstaining from voting on the budget, allowing it to pass 52-37. The PC party had already said it would vote against the budget after it was unveiled late last month.
“We’re in no better shape than we were at any other time, especially moving forward,” Harris said on Wednesday afternoon.
The deal between the Liberals and NDP was struck following revisions to the budget by the Liberals to appease some of the NDP’s demands, including an agreement to increase Ontario Works payments by one per cent and to provide $20 million in funding to help rural and northern hospitals achieve more efficiency.
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The highlight of the deal between the two parties, however, is a so-called “tax the rich” plan that will charge a surtax of two per cent on Ontarians earning more than $500,000 per year, under the condition that the approximately $500 million annualy that would be collected by the tax would go towards paying down the provincial deficit, and that the tax would have a fixed, five-year lifespan.
Harris said that the deal was further proof that Premier Dalton McGuinty couldn’t be trusted, and that the money raised through the surtax was “chump change” compared to the cost-cutting suggestions made by the Conservatives, such as a mandatory public-sector wage freeze which would save upwards of $2 billion a year.
“The Premier said that he wouldn’t raise taxes, and he broke that promise again,” the MPP added.
“The area he should be focusing on is the expenditure side of the ledger. That is where we feel he has the greatest ability to make an impact, and he failed to do so. We don’t have a revenue problem, but he’s always looking for new streams of revenue because he’s a spendaholic.”
Harris also doesn’t believe the Conservatives were left out in the cold when it came to negotiating a new budget by outright refusing to accept it when it was tabled last month. He said his party wasn’t willing to play political games with the Liberals, adding that the province has gone adrift and will only float further off course under the Liberal party.
“I want to clear up that misconception that we didn’t even bother to read the document, which is false,” he said. “We had to draw a line in the sand.”
Late last week Harris, along with several other PC members across the province, submitted their nomination papers for their ridings, a move that the Liberals claimed was a clear sign that they were “gunning for an expensive [and] unnecessary election” but Harris said it was merely a formality and in no way signaled that his party wanted a second election in just seven months.
“The last thing folks want or need is an election right now. I’ve heard that clearly from our residents. However, I have heard that we can’t afford to continue down this path, either, or reckless spending.”