Ontarians may be headed back to the polls this spring.
The Liberal provincial minority government tabled its proposed budget Tuesday, but Opposition and Progressive Conservative party Leader Tim Hudak says his party will not support the budget, putting Andrea Horwath’s New Democratic Party in a position to decide whether the budget is voted down.
The budget aims to slash the province’s $15.3 billion deficit by freezing wages at hospitals, universities, colleges and on other public sector employees. If it is defeated, an election could be called as early as May.
“We are making the right choices to ensure that Ontario families are receiving the best possible services and the best value for tax dollars,” said Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan. “All of us have a role to play in balancing the budget.”
The budget aims to save $17.7 billion over the next three years while increasing revenues by $4.4 billion without tax increases. But opponents of the legislation say it’s leaving too many groups out of the equation.
“With students having huge debt and not a lot of job prospects coming out of school, it’s concerning that there’s nothing in this budget for job creation,” said Hamilton Mountain MPP Monique Taylor.
“The budget’s falling short on job creation and health care. There’s nothing in to help everyday families and make life easier for them,” said Taylor. “That’s a serious problem.”
Horwath said that her party’s MPPs will be meeting with constituents and having a “serious talk” this week over whether to support the budget.
“We’re not ready to make that decision yet,” said Taylor. “We won’t know that until after our next caucus meeting.”
Some of the features of the budget include austerity toward pensions for current public sector employees, including greater required contributions and a reduction in future benefits, as well as a freeze on scheduled drops in corporate income taxes and the Business Education tax.
The budget comes on the heels of February’s Drummond Report, which called for numerous measures to take place in order to quickly tackle the deficit.
However, the Liberals left a number of the report’s recommendations out of the budget, including a plan to cancel the recent 30 per cent tuition grant for university students.
“The government’s commitment to continue funding enrolment growth and the tuition grant are critical to creating a more accessible and affordable post-secondary education system,” said Sean Madden, President of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), a provincial student lobbying group.
Madden said, however, that postsecondary education still needs to be a bigger priority for the McGuinty Liberals.
“With this Budget, our universities will continue to operate with the least per-student funding and highest tuition fees of any province, while teaching quality and student success remain pressing issues,” he said.