Budget buying votes: Scott
The budget tabled by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government in Queen’s Park last week is nothing but a last-minute attempt for the government to save itself by purchasing Ontarians’ votes with their own money, says Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott.
“Truly, it’s an election budget,” Scott told the paper in a phone interview. “They’re buying your votes.”
The $158.5-billion budget tabled on March 28 contains big spending, including some $20 billion in new spending over three years, on everything from enhanced drug and dental coverage to free daycare for preschoolers to a benefit for seniors who still live in their own homes. Most of that new spending would be enacted beginning in 2019, and would be funded through years of deficits. The projected deficit for the 2018-19 fiscal year is $6.7 billion.
Of the government’s doubling down on various types of “care” for Ontarians, Scott, referencing the province’s high hydro costs, said the government hasn’t seemed to care about residents for the past decade or so.
“Now, 70 days from an election, they care,” she said.
Scott criticized what she said was a lack of tax breaks for small businesses.
“In rural Ontario, small businesses create jobs,” she said. “Small businesses didn’t get any breaks.”
The budget does include some $900 million in spending over 10 years for what the government calls its Jobs and Prosperity Fund, which it says would help create 70,000 jobs.
The budget also included an income tax increase for the top 17 per cent of earners in the province, those making $71,500 or more per year, which, according to the finance minister, would equate to about 1.8 million Ontarians. Under the framework, someone earning $95,000 a year would pay $168 more in income tax; someone earning $130,000, $200 more. The lowest 680,000 or so income earners would pay less income tax, and the bulk of Ontarians would see no change.
Scott was asked if she supported higher income taxes for the province’s highest earners.
“Overall, it’s relief,” she said, adding the PCs would make life more affordable for Ontarians. “It’s reducing hydro, it’s removing cap-and-trade.”
Scott repeatedly criticized the government for years of inaction on high hydro costs, something she’s presented numerous petitions on.
“Hydro has been the tipping point for a lot more poverty that I’ve ever seen in our area,” she said.
While the PCs had an established platform under former leader Patrick Brown, one has not been established under the party’s new leader, former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford.
The platform that had been endorsed under Brown contained a carbon tax that would have generated billions of dollars a year in revenue. Ford has said publicly he will not endorse a carbon tax, and that he plans to cut costs in the province without cutting jobs.
“We’re not looking at job layoffs in government,” Scott told the paper, adding that by following recommendations in auditor generals’ reports, that efficiencies could be found without costing jobs.
“That’s the approach we’re looking at,” she said. Scott added that, “Doug Ford’s been a businessman for a long time.”
Scott said she didn’t have a timeline on when the party’s platform would be rolled out.
“I know they’re working on it,” she said.
A highlight of the budget for Haliburton County is the inclusion of $71 million toward a $200-million-plus broadband Internet expansion project being headed up by the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, which is owned by the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus. Requests for funding for that project were made to the provincial and federal levels of government more than a year ago.
That money had been included for broadband expansion was noted by Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin during a council meeting the morning after the budget was presented.
Devolin said the budget contained “the good, the bad and the ugly,” but was pleased to see money for the EORN project included.
“I gave our MPP a call, Laurie Scott, and that fully has her support,” Devolin said, “and within her caucus, and she’s confident that if we happen to have a blue team instead of a red team, or even if there’s a minority government or whatever, that it has the backing of the Conservatives, as well as the Liberals. Certainly, for connectivity in Haliburton County, this is a watershed moment and a great thing.”
“Of course, we’ve been supportive of that for years,” Scott told the paper, adding that she and MP Jamie Schmale were both supporters of the project. “It’s good economic policy as well.”
“Of course, there are always some things in the budget you agree with,” Scott said.
As for the election, while the PCs have yet to publicly unveil a plan, Scott said it comes down to the fact that the Liberal plan is simply to continue to spend and spend, and that one day, the bill will arrive for future generations to pay off.
“You can’t just keep on spending,” she said.