The government’s failure to acknowledge its runaway debt, yet alone deal with it, makes last week’s provincial budget a bust, says the local Member of Provincial Parliament.
Instead, Kathleen Wynne’s government plans to continue heaping on debt without any fiscal accountability, says Michael Harris.
Four million Ontario residents under the age of 24 will be covered for prescription drugs, students can wait a bit longer before repaying provincial school loans, tobacco taxes are going up and there is investment in career planning programs planned for the next few years under provisions of the new budget.
Those priorities aren’t shared by Harris, who wanted to see some mention of the provincial debt, and even a plan to start paying it down.
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“This was a cooked up budget. This is supposed to be a balanced budget but we believe there is still a $5-billion operational deficit. Nonetheless, we will see an $8-billion spending increase year over year with no plan to send one red cent to paying down the debt – there is a $312-billion debt in the province,” he said. “Those are precious dollars that are being sucked out of core essential services. There has been no plan to address that.”
There are a few spots in the annual budget that he was happy to see, however it doesn’t change his mind on paying down the debt.
“There is a tax credit for seniors that take public transportation, there is a tax credit for people that stay home for their loved ones, a caregivers tax credit,” he explained. “Those are a couple of the measures that I liked in the budget, so it wasn’t all bad news, but I am a member of the opposition and I am here to tell you that there is no acknowledgement of the debt and I think that is the biggest thing that is staring Ontarians down. I think this is something that people should be absolutely troubled about.”
The subsidized pharmaceutical plan for Ontarians aged 24 and under is something he takes issue with. He points to his advocacy for rare disease treatments and coverage for taxpayers.
“Under this Liberal pharma-care program, Justin Beiber, who has a net worth of about $224 million, will now be eligible for free prescription drugs. As somebody that is under the age of 24 in Ontario, he will be eligible and I think there is something wrong with that,” he said, pointing to already available private coverage in the province. “We have families that are doing bake sales and forced to max out their credit cards and mortgage their homes to provide treatments for the loved ones simply because they have a rare disease. There is no acknowledgment for these treatments that are approved by Health Canada, but not covered in Ontario. That is where I would have liked to see the move.”
He points to the fact that it is an election year at the provincial level, and says there are still many things that need to be worked out with the numbers included in this year’s budget.
“They are trying to out-left the NDP, and we are obviously getting closer to an election,” he said. “They have got new revenues in cap and trade, they are balancing supposedly on the backs of Ontarians through new taxes, of course. This budget is a step in the race for the left ahead of an election year. Next year’s budget will probably have more spending in it, but again, they could have taken some of that revenue and that savings and dumped it down on the debt, but they spent every last cent. That is what Liberals do – they spend everything. We don’t have so much of a revenue problem, we have a massive spending problem. Sure, come income tax time, people will go out and buy a big shiny new TV, but we should be putting that down on the credit cards. That is not what this government did. They are in full election mode to buy people’s votes with your money. Leading into the next election is going to be exciting times.”