Ontario budget a buy-in to election: McDonell

In this December 2015, file photo, MPP Jim McDonell speaks at an event in Cornwall, Ont. McDonell says the 2018 Ontario budget is a buy-in for the Liberals in the upcoming election and will spend future generations of Ontarians. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

SDSG – Local MPP Jim McDonell says the Ontario budget is a bunch of short term promises from a “tired” government looking to “buy their way into another term.”

Ontario Liberal Finance Minister Charles Sousa unveiled the budget this afternoon (Wednesday), which includes $20 billion in new spending and will see the government run deficits through 2025. The Liberals are projecting a $6.7 billion deficit for the upcoming fiscal year.

The budget includes an increase for welfare and disability recipients of 3 per cent per year over the next three years.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, McDonell says there needs to be a plan from a responsible government looking toward our future.

“We’re looking at spending our children’s future and there’s a lot of these problems that they’ve created over the last 15 years and now they’re looking at trying to buy their way out of them,” McDonell said.

The Progressive Conservative MPP also points out the Liberals own forecast of negative job growth of 50 per cent over the next couple of years.

As for free preschool child care, which would start in 2020, McDonell says the biggest problem is there’s not enough licenced daycare spots in SD&G.

“To qualify for the child care you must have your child in a licenced daycare. There’s something like a third of the parents can’t find licenced daycare. This is a mess they made by closing down a lot of the private daycare centers,” McDonell said.

When it comes to dental care, McDonell says it looks good on the surface but the benefit amounts won’t go far. “It’s about $700 for a four-person family. They make it sound like a big deal but where could you get…what kind of care could you get for $50 a year?”

The Ontario Drug and Dental Program, to take effect in 2019, will reimburse up to 80 per cent of eligible expenses with a cap of $400 per person, $600 per couple and $700 for a family of four.

“They’ve also increased taxes in other areas. Many of these people may gain $50 or $100 in benefits but they’re going to be paying a lot more in taxes,” he said.

The biggest item in the budget was $11 billion for light rail from Toronto to Windsor. McDonell was asked if Eastern Ontario was ignored in this budget.

“They’ve been talking about big ticket items for years and many of those have been re-announcement after re-announcement. It’s likely we won’t see these big projects come to fruition,” he said.

McDonell used examples of projects he remembers when he came into office in 2011, like a road into the Ring of Fire development in Northern Ontario and two-way all-day GO transit to Kitchener.

“This year’s budget they just left it off (the Ring of Fire). After years of talking about this being our biggest – Ontario’s equivalent of the Oil Sands – now we don’t even want to talk about it in the budget.”

McDonell also questions where the government is going to find all the money for pay for these promises, for a province with $325 billion in debt and is forecast to have $360 billion by 2020.

“You have to have the money to pay for these. This all comes out of a province where we are paying some of the highest property taxes on the continent.”

“We heard the finance minister talk about the importance of balanced budgets…a few months ago. Now it’s blown out of the way and they’re talking about running huge deficits. If you’re raising taxes in an election year, what are you going to do next year?” McDonell asked.

McDonell says, if Ontario continues on the Liberal government’s path, at some point, the province will “run into a wall” in terms of borrowing money “just like we did under the NDP government where creditors refused to lend money to the province.”

He also notes the auditor general refuses to sign off on the Liberal’s spending from last year. “You really have to wonder why.”