Editorial: A strong Ontario not for all Ontarians

March 23 was budget day in Ontario. Provincial Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy released his latest financial plan for the next fiscal year, dubbed “Building a Strong Ontario.” Based on what is included in this budget, and what was not, it is clear that the government’s idea of a “Strong Ontario” does not include all Ontarians.

In this budget there are measures to advance resource mining for electric vehicle battery production and changes to corporate income tax for companies which manufacture in Ontario. Many infrastructure projects including highways and transit are planned for the Greater Toronto Area, as are renovated or new school projects, and some hospital projects.

For retirees, the Guaranteed Annual Income System will expand, and be adjusted annually for inflation. Everyone will enjoy the gas tax and fuel tax rate cuts until the end of this year. The government is spending money to train more workers in the trades, help students get into trades and apprenticeship programs, and help bring in more internationally-trained immigrants in their fields. To address medical system shortages, more money will be spent to train doctors, retain nurses, and expand home care services.

For all the positives of the budget, there are many areas which were ignored or left out altogether. For municipalities, outside of Toronto’s transit systems, there is no new funding for infrastructure. While hospital and education infrastructure will see some minor spending increases, there is little money for the staff needed to provide services or address wait-lists. Spaces for less than 200 new doctors, and 100 nurses retained, are but a drop in the bucket. There is nothing – outside of the bold pronouncement of wanting to build 1.5 million homes in the next 10 years – in this budget to address the affordability and housing crisis in Ontario.

Noticeably missing from our local area is assistance with addressing the $10 million funding gap between provincial funding and fundraising to begin construction of the new Dundas Manor in Winchester.

Every budget has winners and losers and clearly – unless you make batteries or live in the GTA – most are on the losing side.

If you are struggling to put food on your table, this budget is not for you. Do you struggle to pay your mortgage or rent? Do you look at your electricity, water, or heating bills to decide which gets paid this month? This budget is not for your Ontario. If you are precariously housed, seeking affordable housing, or struggling with rent, this budget is not for you. Do you have a family doctor? Do you want one? This budget is not for you. Would you like to earn a living wage to be able to afford even the basic necessities of life? This budget is not for you.

On the plus side, Ontario is forecast to have a surplus budget in 2024-25, its first since 2008. Members of Provincial Parliament are blocked by legislation from receiving a pay raise until that goal is reached. Balancing the budget means MPPs – no matter what part of Ontario they are from – can receive a raise, even if many others in Ontario do not. Small miracles.

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