QUEEN’S PARK – Last Tuesday, the McGuinty Government released its 2012 budget – a document that I truly believe contains few benefits for people in the north. With this budget, McGuinty has turned his back on all of northern Ontario, including some Liberal ridings. It provides little reason for any MPPs in the north to support it.
This is coupled with the fact that Tim Hudak, the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, is playing Russian Roulette style politics with our economy, deciding to vote against the budget before even seeing the document and refusing to provide any amendments.
While both McGuinty and Hudak are putting their parties’ political fortunes ahead of the people of this province, my caucus and I are committed to working in good faith with the other parties to improve the budget: by earnestly seeking public input and by using this feedback to constructively propose amendments that will make it better.
This budget hits northerners on many fronts. When it comes to our economy, it provides us with little hope: after the downturn with the forest industry we are increasingly looking to the tourism and mining industries to provide good paying jobs, but while the budget highlights the importance of developing the Ring of Fire, it provides no funding to make it a reality. It also proposes gutting the MNR and closing all of our tourist information centres.
Many of us were looking for a break in the cost of living, but while the budget paper acknowledges that hydro bills are too high, its only solution is to ‘look at’ steps to address it in the future. The budget also proposes significant increases of user fees on a number of services, including drivers’ licenses and registration.
On healthcare, it fails to address the systemic problems that make it difficult for us to access primary care and on education, it proposes putting further strains on northern schools by amalgamating school boards in low enrollment areas and making cuts to curriculum and teaching specialists.
The only positive for our region is that it keeps the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund in place.
The conundrum we have is this: I strongly suspect there is little appetite for an election, which is why I am seeking your input about how we can improve the budget. It is wrong that there has not been any public input sought by the government prior to or since this budget was introduced.
This is why your input on the budget is crucial; I want to know what changes can be made to avoid an election, or if you think this budget is so bad that an election cannot be avoided.
This week my Riding Report will arrive in mailboxes. In it I’ve included a budget survey. I encourage you to mail it back, or send me a letter, e-mail or fax to one of my community offices. The Ontario NDP has also set up a survey- online and by phone to get your feedback, at ONDPcaucus.com/yoursay/ and 1-855-ONT-BDGT.
MPP Kenora-Rainy River