From Queen’s Park: A look at the recent budget controversy

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Sarah Campbell-MPPQUEEN’S PARK – Last Friday people across Ontario woke up to unexpected news that we could enter into a snap election over the 2012 provincial budget. Many people, myself included, were surprised by this news.

As everyone is well aware, in April my caucus reached a compromise that would allow the budget to pass second reading. This is the “budget deal” that has been referenced a great deal over the past week. At that time, I, as well as my caucus colleagues, made it very clear negotiations were not finished and that we would continue to work to improve the budget both through negotiation and by proposing amendments in committee. This is exactly what has happened.

Following the budget bill’s referral to committee, negotiations continued and we reached an agreement to secure public hearings on the budget in early June, which have now taken place. The purpose of these hearings was to come up with amendments to make the budget bill more fair.

This most recent controversy is a matter of the government playing politics and attempting to place blame for an unexpected outcome on the NDP. The Liberals are acting surprised by the introduction of our amendments, when, in fact, the truth is they expected the amendments and submitted some of their own. They simply did not expect the NDP amendments to be adopted in committee and were surprised by the fact that PC members of the committee, who support privatization, voted in favour of our anti-privatization measures. We are not breaching our ‘end of the agreement’ by proposing changes, we are living up to the agreement we made with the people of Ontario when we allowed the budget to pass second reading.

The amendments we have proposed focus on reigning in sweeping privatization measures that would eliminate public oversight of many key public services and which often cost more.

We’ve seen what privatization and lack of oversight means for Ontarians: multi-million dollar boondoggles like ORNGE air ambulance and the outsourcing of jobs to the U.S. as happened with the privatization of MNR licensing, and will continue to happen under free trade agreements, where the lowest international bid must be accepted. These new proposals will put our most personal information, such as that contained in our birth and marriage certificates, driver’s licenses and health cards in the hands of private, for-profit corporations, and may allow this personal information to be accessed by foreign governments, without notice, through laws like the Patriot Act in the United States.

The truth is there has not been an open and full public discussion on the extent of these sweeping privatization measures contained in the budget and they are not essential to the budget bill itself. If the Liberals feel so strongly that Ontarians will support privatization, we welcome its discussion on a separate bill in the Fall.

I acknowledge negotiations are not always easy. In fact, the easy route would be to give up and engage in oppositional politics, as the PCs have done. But I believe it is incumbent upon all of us to respect the people who sent us here and to work together to make parliament work. I am committed to continuing to negotiate in good faith and want to support the amended budget at the final vote.

Sarah Campbell MPP
Kenora

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Sarah Campbell is a Canadian politician, who was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the 2011 election. She represents the electoral district of Kenora—Rainy River as a member of the Ontario New Democratic Party caucus