Tuesday, September 23rd10.7°C
23284
22501

Tough summer ahead for Ontario politicians as legislature breaks until fall

TORONTO - Ontario's law-making school is out for the summer, but provincial politicians aren't breaking out the flip-flops and cracking open a cold one just yet.

The legislature adjourned Thursday after the governing Liberals passed their budget 56 to 37 over the objections of the opposition parties, just three weeks after starting the new session.

But all three major parties won't have many lazy days before they reassemble in three months.

The Liberals are girding for a fight with public-sector unions in the fall, the Progressive Conservatives are heading into a leadership race and, like the New Democrats, will be mending fences after a disappointing election defeat.

There's a lot of work to do before Oct. 20, said Premier Kathleen Wynne.

"Make no mistake, this is not an extended vacation that MPPs are going on, and certainly I will be working very hard over the coming weeks to prepare for all the implementation that comes with the passage of the budget," she said.

"The momentary glee at the passage of the budget is just that."

It was the same $130.4-billion spending plan that triggered the June 12 election when her minority government couldn't muster the necessary support from the Progressive Conservatives or the New Democrats.

But when the Liberals were re-elected with a majority of seats, the budget's passage — just 11 days after it was re-introduced — was a foregone conclusion.

It allows the province to spend an estimated $12.5 billion more than it takes in this year and gives the green light to a made-in-Ontario pension plan, as well as spending $29 billion on transit projects and $2.5 billion in corporate grants to attract businesses over 10 years.

It also hikes taxes on tobacco, aviation fuel and people earning more than $150,000 a year.

The Progressive Conservatives warn the additional debt will lead to a downgrade by debt-rating agencies.

"I'm concerned about a downgrade that could well mean hundreds of millions of dollars more in interest being paid to service debt when we could be using that money to build hospital, to provide better health care, better education and to build infrastructure," said deputy Tory leader Christine Elliott.

Ontario's net debt is expected to reach $290 billion this year — about 40 per cent of its gross domestic product — and it pays about $11 billion a year in interest, the third largest expenditure after health care and education.

But that could skyrocket if interest rates rise, a prospect former finance minister Dwight Duncan once said kept him up at night.

Standard and Poor's Ratings Services has reaffirmed its rating and negative outlook for Ontario, but Moody's Investors Service lowered its outlook from stable to negative. Both are watching closely for progress in slaying the deficit.

Freezing compensation for public sector workers — what Treasury Board president Deb Matthews refers to as a "net zero" — is a big part of that plan.

Her determination will be tested this fall when the government goes back to the bargaining table with teachers. Their agreements, which expire at the end of the summer, were re-written last year after the teachers went to war over forced contracts that froze wages.

Labour unions used their substantial resources during the election to help defeat the Tories, but Matthews said that won't sway her. They ran on a budget that made it clear there's no new money for wage increases.

"So anyone who supported us during the campaign knew what the ground rules were and that's remained unchanged," she said.

The Liberals will end up cutting public-sector jobs to balance the books — something they vowed they wouldn't do during the campaign, the NDP said.

The government likes to say it's a "progressive" budget, but it's all about austerity, said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

"It includes a number of initiatives that aren't progressive at all, including the likelihood of 100,000 people being fired in their province or laid off, including the massive sell-off of assets and the privatization of services," she said.

It'll be a busy summer for Wynne as well. She said she's headed to a raspberry field Friday with her granddaughter, but she'll be travelling further afield to Prince Edward Island in late August to meet with her provincial and territorial counterparts.

The Canadian Press


Read more Business News

23392


Recent Trending




Today's Market
S&P TSX15151.37+22.37
S&P CDNX925.61-2.48
DJIA17169.86-2.82
Nasdaq4535.181+7.492
S&P 5001995.13+0.84
CDN Dollar0.9057+0.0001
Gold1223.20+5.2999
Oil91.50-0.91
Lumber333.00+6.40
Natural Gas3.936+0.028

 
Okanagan Companies
Pacific Safety0.17+0.01
Knighthawk0.01-0.005
QHR Technologies Inc1.24-0.03
Cantex0.05+0.01
Anavex Life Sciences0.205-0.0145
Metalex Ventures0.055+0.005
Russel Metals34.76-0.61
Copper Mountain Mining2.400.00
Colorado Resources0.160.00
ReliaBrand Inc0.0206-0.0043
Sunrise Resources Ltd0.02-0.005
Mission Ready Services0.27-0.02

 



23481

FEATURED Property
187478114752 Oyama Road, Lake Country, BC
5 bedrooms 5 baths
$1,999,000
more details
image2image2image2
Click here to feature your property
Please wait... loading


Is this a fair offer from ICBC?

“Is this a fair offer from ICBC?”…. “How much should I settle for?”… “What is my claim worth?” These are just some of the questions I regularly get as...


Disruptive innovation

Last night I was privileged to be able to speak at the Greater Westside Board of Trade business awards dinner. Photo: ContributedI talked about Innovation and Collaboration which are two very interes...


Executors and their duties

There will be a time when you will need to decide who you should appoint as executor of your Will. As well, there may be a time when you will be asked by someone to act as the executor of his or her W...

_








Member of BC Press Council


22632