THUNDER BAY – The Ontario Finance Minister has brought down Ontario’s new budget. The plan is a ten year direction that Ontario Premier Wynne and the Liberal Government feel will move Ontario on the path forward.
“This Budget looks not only at the days ahead but at the next decade. We are laying out a robust plan for a strong Ontario with more jobs, more opportunity and more security for now and into the future. We will make strategic investments to grow the economy and create jobs and balance the budget by 2017-18. We are introducing a new jobs fund to attract new investments to Ontario, a new pensions plan to provide Ontarians with a more secure retirement, and building transit and transportation infrastructure for our province to become even more productive and competitive,” states Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance.
“This is a strong plan for Northern Ontario. Unprecedented investments in infrastructure, and people, will create new jobs and grow our economy, building a strong future for Thunder Bay Superior North and all of Northern Ontario. I’m particularly proud that our government has stepped up to commit $1 billion to build transportation infrastructure in the Ring of Fire, renewed our commitment to the NOHFC, and certainly that two new sections of Hwy 11/17 have been selected as priority 4 laning projects,” stated Michael Gravelle. “Clearly under the leadership of Premier Wynne our government is making the North a priority – our commitment is clear and our investments are real. These investments will make a real difference in the lives of so many but a vote against this budget would put it all in jeopardy. This is a real opportunity for the NDP to show what they stand for.”
Harold Wilson, the Progressive Conservative candidate in Thunder Bay Atikokan says, “The citizens of this Province have been fed daily doses of the Provincial Government’s ‘Grab Bag’ of promises over the past month, including Monday’s announcement of a ‘pledge’ for the Ring of Fire, but still no plan. The Liberals think they can hold out their spending-heavy vision of the future, and hope no one brings up their sorry record of implementation over the past decade and more. Once again, they announce a good game, but their track record over 11 years betrays them.”
“Ontario needs a government that has a plan to reduce spending, eliminate excessive red tape, address ever-higher energy rates, create jobs, and especially the courage to implement it,” continued Wilson. “This continuation of the McGuinty/Wynne plan won’t do it. In fact, now they are increasing both taxes and the deficit at the same time. This drives employers away,” adds Wilson.
Thunder Bay Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro says that this budget is good for Ontario, and good for Thunder Bay. Mauro points to the funding for the Ring of Fire, the twinning of the highways, and the affordable housing as the strong points for Budget 2014.
Kenora Rainy River PC candidate Randy Nickle says, “Today, I call on our NDP member of Provincial Parliament to quit compromising the future of Northern Ontario. Ms. Campbell must stop playing games. She protests the Liberals at home, but supports them whole heartily at Queens Park, voting for cuts to Northern services, scandals and lost opportunities.”
“It’s time for an MPP who will get to work. It’s time to stop protesting and create real change for the people of the riding.”
The New Democrats have scheduled a meeting for 10AM on May 2nd where leader Andrea Horwath will speak to the media.
Chamber of Commerce
The Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce states that the “2014 Ontario Budget contains some good news for business in Thunder Bay and the region including significant funding for infrastructure in the Northwest and some measures to offset energy rates”.
Chamber President Charla Robinson says, “The commitment of up to $1 billion towards infrastructure development in the Ring of Fire indicates that the Province is ready to invest in this once in a lifetime mining opportunity and the jobs and opportunity that it will create for our region and all Ontarians. We must now work to convince the Federal Government to do the same.”
“The creation of new funding for infrastructure will have a positive impact on our business community. Public transit funding for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area will create new opportunities for Thunder Bay’s Bombardier plant. In addition, infrastructure funding for municipalities and the continued enhancement of Northwestern Ontario highways will provide jobs and growth opportunities for local business,” adds Robinson.
Robinson continues, “Small businesses will benefit from an enhanced saveONenergy program that will help reduce energy bills; however, the Chamber is concerned that the budget fails to address the much longer-term problem of ever rising energy costs in the Province.”
Transportation and Infrastructure
· Committing $1 billion to build strategic transportation infrastructure development in the Ring of Fire.
· Expanding two additional sections of Highway 11/17 between Thunder Bay and Nipigon to four lanes, construction beginning in 2015-16.
· Continuing support for strong communities by making the $100 million Small, Rural and Northern Municipal Infrastructure Fund permanent.
· Dedicating funding to make nearly an additional $29 billion available over the next 10 years for transportation infrastructure, public transit and other priority infrastructure projects — $14 billion dedicated to roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure outside of the GTHA.
· Providing more than $11 billion over the next 10 years for elementary and secondary education infrastructure.
· Planning to invest over $11.4 billion in major hospital expansion and redevelopment projects over the next 10 years.
· Establishing a new 10-year, $2.5 billion Jobs and Prosperity Fund that will improve Ontario’s ability to attract significant business investments, create jobs, strengthen Ontario’s strategic sectors and support the province’s future economic growth.
· Providing $100 million to support economic growth and job creation in Northern Ontario through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund.
· Tripling our investment to the Rural Economic Development Program, increasing funding by 10 million to a total of $14.5 million to help rural communities plan and build a foundation for economic growth and strengthen rural business.
· Investing $295 million over two years for the Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy, which gives young people the opportunity to gain a foothold in the job market. Since September 2013, it has already helped over 10,000 young people gain work experience and find jobs.
· Expanding the reach of Ontario’s exports to fast-growing emerging markets to help many small and medium-sized businesses grow and create jobs.
· Providing new and expanded programs to help manage electricity costs for businesses. These include discounts for large, growing businesses and large industrial users. The province extended the NIER program with $360 million over three years up to 2016 and will explore future expansion in the context of overall supports to the industry, including the province’s newly announced expansion of the Industrial Electricity Incentive and Industrial Conservation Initiative.
Creating Opportunities and a Fair Ontario
· Continuing to reform the social assistance system to improve income supports and reduce barriers to entering the workforce.
· Providing $810 million in community and development services over the next 3 years.
· Raising the minimum wage to $11.00 per hour and proposing legislation to index it to inflation to help ensure that workers receive a decent wage.
· Providing support for wage increases for personal support workers in the publicly funded home and community care sector, and front line child care workers.
· Making it easier for seniors to stay safe, active and engaged in their communities by doubling the size of the new Seniors Community Grant Program to $1 million per year.
· Investing over $750 million in additional funding by 2016-17 in more home and community care services, including $270 million in 2014-15, to strengthen access to care in the home and community where people want it.
· Increasing the Ontario Child Benefit by proposing to index it to inflation, to help all children reach their full potential.
· Proposing to remove the Debt Retirement Charge cost from residential users’ electricity bills after December 31, 2015, to save a typical residential ratepayer about $70 per year.