Editorial – Inequitable fall update

Last week the provincial government announced its fall economic update, a snapshot of Ontario’s fiscal health. Revenues are higher than expected and the deficit is lower than projected. This gave Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy an opportunity to present his government’s plans leading up to the provincial election next June.

More money for roads, highways, transit, and health care. Infrastructure is the key and ties in with the governing party’s “Build Ontario” plan. Great news if you live in the Greater Toronto Area and love driving the highways – you will get more of those. Infrastructure for Southwestern Ontario and the “Ring of Fire” areas of Northern Ontario. There is more money being spent on things, and less being spent on services.

Unlike vote rich areas of the province, very little of this update targets Eastern Ontario: even less so in SDG Counties. Eastern Ontario appears three times in the fall update. Two times for high speed internet projects, once for an economic development fund. In those instances, these represent previously announced funding.

In fact, many of the announcements made in this update are re-announcements of funding. Some were in the Spring 2021 budget, the remainder in the plethora of announcements made since then. Specific announcements for SDG include Highway 401 improvements in South Stormont and South Dundas, and extending natural gas service in South Glengarry. Nothing new again.

The ideal reason for this region/riding being ignored would be that we did not need the government spending our money here because the economy is in good shape, infrastructure in good repair, and our social needs are met. Sadly the opposite is true. Higher unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, socio-economic disparities, and lack of social services are the norm, not the exception.

A more likely reason this region received little more than re-announcements is that Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry is a safe Conservative riding. What are 103,000 residents in one riding in Eastern Ontario compared to the millions of residents in the 905, 416 and 519 area code regions? Will opposition parties put much effort into an election campaign in less than eight months time in SDSG?

Given the disparity in this fall update, why has our elected representative failed to secure SDSG an appropriate share of the pie? It is the job of a member of provincial Parliament to represent local interests. Natural Gas access for fewer than 100 homes in South Glengarry is not dealing with infrastructure needs across the riding.

This economic statement from the government is nothing more than a pre-election policy plank. The spending announcements are great news for vote-rich urban areas of the province, but lack of fairness plays region against region. It is unfortunate there was not more local advocacy from SDSG to ensure a more equitable distribution of spending across all Ontario.

Since you’re here…

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