Paul Miller, Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MPP
The past few weeks have been particularly gruelling at Queen’s Park. You’ve read and heard in the media about the tough budget negotiations undertaken by the NDP with the Liberal government.
The initial unwillingness of the government to sincerely negotiate, particularly when they knew how worried most people were that the budget would leave them falling further behind, was appalling.
Through very hard work, we made some progress that left the budget a little more fair. We now have a new two per cent surtax on individuals making more than $500,000 a year; we have funding to save child care spaces giving working parents much needed help; we have an increase in support for low-income Ontarians and funding to help protect health care services in rural and northern communities.
On the surprise cancellation of the slots at racetracks program, the government seemed to forget that the only communities that would accept slots were those with racetracks.
The racing industry agreed to slots at the tracks and negotiated replacing lost racing revenue with a 20 per cent share of slots revenue and host municipalities got a five- per cent share. The 80 per cent share of this new revenue went to the government for health and education programs.
Our negotiations resulted in the government talking with the horse racing industry and providing some transition funding.
We did not get everything that we put on the table and were shocked at the complete intransigence of the government on our attempts to have the HST removed from home heating. They would not even utter a word of compromise, spewing a flat ‘no’ to every attempt to get relief for Ontarians to heat their homes.
We will continue our efforts to move the government on a plan for job creation and away from selling off Ontario Northland Railway – the lifeline to so many northern communities.
These are just two glaring examples of why this budget is unacceptable to so many Ontarians and showed the Liberal’s complete disconnection with the reality most of us face every day.
The Liberal government’s budget motion was passed at Queen’s Park April 24, but now we have to focus our efforts on the budget companion legislation, Bill 55, the act that implements budget measures.
Nearly one-third of this bill is dedicated to the privatization of Service Ontario in a manner that will make the ORNGE fiasco look like child’s play.
We must be sure that our hard-earned tax dollars are spent providing government services to every Ontarian in the most accessible way, without compromising the integrity of our information and without adding costs because of alternate financing proposals and flawed restructuring.
As the NDP’s critic for government services, I am fighting this disaster-in-the-making. I am working to restructure Service Ontario in a manner that keeps those government services that should only be delivered by the public sector in public hands, at minimum cost to Ontarians. We are also trying to ensure complete transparency every step of the way.