QP REPORT: Back to work with a budget

SDSG MPP Jim McDonell. (MPP Office via Newswatch Group, File)

On Thursday, the Liberal government delivered the 2016/2017 budget, almost a full two months earlier than last year.  Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but it was also the same day that the former Premier’s Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff appeared in court for breach of trust and mischief charges in the destruction of government records concerning the gas plant cancellation scandal.

Contrary to their 2014 election promise, the Wynne Liberal government introduced a new Cap and Trade carbon tax, making life in Ontario a whole lot more expensive.  This new carbon tax will impose an additional cost on all industries that will be passed on to consumers, driving up the price of food, energy, and consumer goods. Businesses who are already struggling with the highest payroll taxes, the highest energy costs, and the highest property taxes on the continent,  will now experience new uncompetitive costs.  If one is serious about the issue of climate change, then developing an integrated plan with all our continental neighbours is crucial.  Considering that Ontario only contributes about one tenth of one percent of the world’s carbon footprint, following a plan that does not involve the world’s major emitters will only waste our capital resources and force many of our businesses into bankruptcy before any meaningful results are attained.  As exhibited in the budget, this new tax revenue appears in general revenue and is really just about getting more revenue for a government that can’t control its spending.

The plan will tax gas, diesel, and home heating fuels and add approximately $875 to the average annual family energy costs.  It will also drive up the cost of food and essential services as the new tax works its way through the economy.  They do boast of a $2 per month savings on electricity bills, but this compares miserably to the approximately $100 increase on January 1st of this year.  The Budget is a severe hit for all Ontarians, especially seniors and those in rural areas.  Seniors whose total income is above $19,000 will have to pay 70 percent more in annual drug deductibles and $1 more for each and every prescription they fill. Alcohol taxes and mark-ups will rise, while tobacco taxes increased as of midnight on budget day.

Are there any good points to the Budget?  Investments into autism services are certainly positive, and the Government’s decision to fund the shingles vaccine for seniors will benefit our healthcare system and improve seniors’ well-being.  A new post-secondary student grant will offset a major portion of tuition for about 30% of our Ontario students, replacing the current one-third grant.  The $30 fee for the Drive Clean Program is cancelled, but the program itself stays.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s debt – now standing for the first time in our history above $300 billion – is projected to cost the province $11.8 billion in interest payments this year alone. Put into perspective, every Ontarian carries $23,000 in public debt and pays $907 in interest annually through tax increases and reduced government services.  We see that life in Ontario just got more expensive, and as one municipal mayor stated last week, it is death by a thousand downloads.  I look forward with great interest to the budget debate and the details that it will reveal and I will continue to advocate for the interests of the residents of Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry.

Jim McDonell
MPP, Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry