Guelph mayor, Green Party MPP react to Ford government’s provincial budget

File photo of downtown Guelph.
File photo of downtown Guelph. Nick Westoll / Global News

Not long after the Ford government presented the first budget of its mandate on Thursday, Guelph MPP and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner offered up a scathing review.

Schreiner said the budget was “riddled with back-of-the-napkin party plans” and pointed out major cuts to children and social services, the environment portfolio and student financial aid.

READ MORE: Ontario tightens purse strings, PCs don’t plan to balance books until 2023-24

He even noted that the 300-page document mentioned drinking and gambling 65 times and climate change only 15 times.

“Budgets reflect the values and priorities of a government and with this government, it’s clear what they want to protect is booze, gambling and tailgating,” he said in a statement.

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The fiscal plan contains several measures to loosen rules around alcohol consumption, such as allowing booze to be served at 9 a.m., and allowing municipalities to establish rules about where alcohol can be consumed in public.

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When asked, Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie said opening parks to revellers is something that needs to be discussed with city council and the community.

“One of the things Guelph is known for when it comes to tourism is both our festivals and sports entertainment,” he said in an interview on Friday.

“If we can allow options like that to dovetail into our tourism strategies, then why shouldn’t we explore it?”

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Overall, Guthrie said the budget presented no big surprises to him, especially considering the deficit the province is faced with.

Finance Minister Vic Fedeli pegged the current deficit at $11.7 billion and they don’t expect to balance the province’s books until 2023-24.

Guthrie was happy to see a path to that goal without drastic and widespread cuts this year.

“I think people need to realize that they were left with a $15 billion a year deficit,” he said. “It is not the ‘slash and burn’ that I thought it was going to be because of the weight of that deficit.”

Like many other mayors, Guthrie was disappointed to see a planned hike to the municipal portion of the gas tax revenue was left out.

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“That was something the City of Guelph — and many other cities, I’m sure — were looking forward to receiving,” he said.

The government also announced it was pausing funding to build a high-speed rail line through Guelph and Kitchener, but the mayor believes the government is more focused on bringing two-way, all-day GO service into the area.

READ MORE: Ontario budget proposes consolidating 35 public health units into 10 regional entities

He was concerned about the government’s plan to consolidate 35 public health units into 10 regional entities by 2021.

“That conversation is going to interesting,” he said. “It’ll definitely be on the radar of many municipalities to see how the governance and how the structure of the reorganization of public health translate to [what happens] on the ground.”