We Can’t Afford This Liberal Budget

April 24, 2015

By MPP Jim McDonell

 

The Liberal Budget, released on April 23rd, will not help the economic situation in Ontario.  Credit rating agencies have downgraded Ontario’s credit rating over the past year, and expert groups such as the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and the Auditor General all told the Premier to change the fiscal direction our province is on and tackle the growing debt, or risk serious consequences for the services we hold dear. The Liberal Government continues to ignore experts’ warnings at their own, and our peril.

 

Well, those serious consequences are quickly approaching.  In this budget, the amount spent on the interest on the debt is growing at an annual rate of 5.7% – the highest growth area in this budget, higher than education, higher than health.  And even more, there is no plan to deal with the debt.  The Auditor General in her recent report warned about the “crowding out” of services because of money that needs to be diverted to pay the interest on the debt.  Well, that day is now truly here.  If the Federal Government hadn’t bailed out Ontario’s health system by increasing its health transfer by $652 million, healthcare would have seen a net cut in its budget as the Liberals reduced the provincial contribution. Cuts to items such as nurses and front-line health care workers, and to services for seniors like cataract surgeries, physiotherapy and diabetes testing strips will only continue as the interest costs increase. In this budget, the Liberals are announcing reviews to seniors’ prescription drug benefits and the Assistive Devices Program with a focus on saving $20 million dollars annually. With the cost of eligible equipment rising, it is clear savings can only come by cutting eligibility.

 

Prior to the budget, the Ontario PC’s asked the Liberals to include five items that would help all Ontarians.  They included commitments to protect jobs by abandoning the ill-conceived Ontario Retirement Pension Plan and Carbon Tax and a commitment to fix our overburdened home care system. We asked for measureable efforts to decrease skyrocketing hydro rates that have some Ontarians choosing whether to heat or eat.  And we wanted to see a serious, credible, detailed plan to balance the budget by 2017-18.

 

None of these five asks have been addressed.

 

And with the plan to sell major assets – like Hydro One – the Liberal government is trading short term gains for long term consequences. Proceeds from this asset sale should be used to pay down Hydro’s $27 billion debt, so that ratepayers aren’t stuck with the bill. Instead, the Liberals’ plan to change the law and divert more and more funds to pet projects that will leave Hydro One customers with higher and higher electricity bills to contend with.

 

Ontarians cannot afford this latest Liberal budget.