TORONTO – Ontario’s law-making school is out for the summer, but the hard work is just starting.
The legislature adjourned for the summer Thursday after the governing Liberals passed their budget 56 to 37 over the objections of the opposition parties.
But all three major parties won’t have many lazy days before it reassembles on Oct. 20. The Liberals are girding for a fight with public-sector labour unions in the fall, the Progressive Conservatives are heading into a leadership race and, like the New Democrats, will also be mending fences after a disappointing election defeat.
It was the same budget that triggered the June 12 election, but when the Liberals were re-elected with a majority of seats, its passage was a foregone conclusion.
No matter what the opposition parties say about the $130.4-billion spending plan, it was the budget that voters endorsed in the election, said Finance Minister Charles Sousa.
“It’s about investing in new initiatives that will make us a greater province in the years to come by investing in infrastructure and making us competitive,” he said.
“I think it’s good news all around because it also talks about a path to balance, ensuring we balance the books by 2017-18.”
The budget allows the province to spend an estimated $12.5 billion more than it takes in and gives the green light to a made-in-Ontario pension plan, as well as a plan to spend $29 billion on transit projects and $2.5 billion in corporate grants to attract business over 10 years.
The Progressive Conservatives are warning that the budget will lead to a downgrade from debt-rating agencies, which would increase the amount of money Ontario pays to service the debt.
The New Democrats say the budget makes a lot of shiny promises, but it’s concealing a plan to sell off provincial assets and cut public-sector jobs as the Liberals try to balance the books.
© The Canadian Press, 2014