Lib­er­als cook­ing the books in prepa­ra­tion for next year’s election, says MPP

The Woolwich Observer - - NEWS - LIZ BE­VAN

THE GOV­ERN­MENT’S FAIL­URE TO ac­knowl­edge its run­away debt, yet alone deal with it, makes last week’s pro­vin­cial budget a bust, says the lo­cal Mem­ber of Pro­vin­cial Par­lia­ment.

Instead, Kath­leen Wynne’s gov­ern­ment plans to con­tinue heap­ing on debt with­out any fis­cal ac­count­abil­ity, says Michael Har­ris.

Four mil­lion On­tario res­i­dents un­der the age of 24 will be cov­ered for pre­scrip­tion drugs, stu­dents can wait a bit longer be­fore re­pay­ing pro­vin­cial school loans, to­bacco taxes are go­ing up and there is in­vest­ment in ca­reer plan­ning pro­grams planned for the next few years un­der provi- sions of the new budget.

Those pri­or­i­ties aren’t shared by Har­ris, who wanted to see some men­tion of the pro­vin­cial debt, and even a plan to start pay­ing it down.

“This was a cooked up budget. This is sup­posed to be a bal­anced budget but we believe there is still a $5-bil­lion op­er­a­tional deficit. Nonethe­less, we will see an $8-bil­lion spend­ing in­crease year over year with no plan to send one red cent to pay­ing down the debt – there is a $312-bil­lion debt in the prov­ince,” he said. “Those are pre­cious dol­lars that are be­ing sucked out of core es­sen­tial ser­vices. There has been no plan to ad­dress that.”

There are a few spots in the an­nual budget that he was happy to see, how­ever it doesn’t change his mind on pay­ing down the debt.

“There is a tax credit for se­niors that take public trans­porta­tion, there is a tax credit for peo­ple that stay home for their loved ones, a care­givers tax credit,” he ex­plained. “Those are a cou­ple of the mea­sures that I liked in the budget, so it wasn’t all bad news, but I am a mem­ber of the op­po­si­tion and I am here to tell you that there is no ac­knowl­edge­ment of the debt and I think that is the big­gest thing that is star­ing Ontarians down. I think this is some­thing that peo­ple should be ab­so­lutely trou­bled about.”

The sub­si­dized phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal plan for Ontarians aged 24 and un­der is some­thing he takes is­sue with. He points to his ad­vo­cacy for rare disease treat­ments and cov­er­age for tax­pay­ers.

“Un­der this Lib­eral pharma-care pro­gram, Justin Beiber, who has a net worth of about $224 mil­lion, will now be el­i­gi­ble for free pre­scrip­tion drugs. As some­body that is un­der the age of 24 in On­tario, he will be el­i­gi­ble and I think there is some­thing wrong with that,” he said, point­ing to al­ready avail­able pri­vate cov­er­age in the prov­ince. “We have fam­i­lies that are do­ing bake sales and forced to max out their credit cards and mort­gage their homes to pro­vide treat­ments for the loved ones sim­ply be­cause they have a rare disease. There is no ac­knowl­edg­ment for these treat­ments that are ap­proved by Health Canada, but not cov­ered in On­tario. That is where I would have liked to see the move.”

He points to the fact that it is an election year at the pro­vin­cial level, and says there are still many things that need to be worked out with the num­bers included in this year’s budget.

“They are try­ing to out­left the NDP, and we are ob­vi­ously get­ting closer to an election,” he said. “They have got new rev­enues in cap and trade, they are bal­anc­ing sup­pos­edly on the backs of Ontarians through new taxes, of course. This budget is a step in the race for the left ahead of an election year. Next year’s budget will prob­a­bly have more spend­ing in it, but again, they could have taken some of that rev­enue and that sav­ings and dumped it down on the debt, but they spent ev­ery last cent. That is what Lib­er­als do – they spend every­thing. We don’t have so much of a rev­enue prob­lem, we have a mas­sive spend­ing prob­lem. Sure, come in­come tax time, peo­ple will go out and buy a big shiny new TV, but we should be put­ting that down on the credit cards. That is not what this gov­ern­ment did. They are in full election mode to buy peo­ple’s votes with your money. Lead­ing into the next election is go­ing to be ex­cit­ing times.”

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