By Kevin Werner, News Staff
The federal Treasury Board President, Tony Clement, dismissed criticism from theOntariopremier that the Conservatives are short-changing the province in transfer payments.
“I don’t take Premier (Kathleen) Wynne too seriously,” Clement, told a group of Stoney Creek business representatives Jan. 6 during a pre-budget discussion at the Stoney Creek municipal service centre. “She has to say something.”
Later in an interview, Clement saidOntariohas seen an increase in its transfer payments by about $12 billion since 2006, with health care transfer payments boosted each year.
“If she has some financial difficulties it is of her own government’s making,” said Clement.
But Liberal officials have said the Conservatives are shrinking Ontario’s transfer payments by $641 million in 2014 from $19.7 billion to $19.1 billion. For health care funding, the Conservatives promised to increase the payments by six per cent but instead are giving the province an increase of only 3.5 per cent for 2013-14.
It means, said Wynne, Ontario will lose $300 million, while Alberta gets $1 billion more in funding. The premier has stated thatOntariopays $11 billion more in federal taxes, than it receives in return.
Ontariohas allocated about $49 billion per year for health care, the highest area of spending in its $127.6 billion budget.
Overall federal transfer payments will increase in 2014 from $61.9 billion to $64.8 billion. Every other province and territory will see an increase in funding.Ontariostill has the largest transfer payment.
Federal officials have responded that health and social transfer payments are going up forOntario. And, they argue,Ontario is doing better economically as it emerges from the recession.
Ontario’s payments will fall from $3.1 billion in 2013 to about $2 billion in 2014.
The funding decline comes from a decrease in Ontario equalization payments, a wealth-sharing program among the province’s that is calculated through a legislative formula.
The Liberals are facing a $12-billion deficit, as they prepare for a spring budget that opposition parties have indicated they may not support. The opposition parties have also criticized the Liberals about the $1 billion they spent on cancelling the gas plants in Oakville during the 2011 provincial election.