By MPP Toby Barrett
Last week, Ontario’s Minister of Finance presented the Fall Economic Statement with a promise to put money back into the pockets of people in Ontario, and a promise that trust and accountability in government will return. Despite the $15 billion deficit—now down to $14.5 billion—we inherited from the previous administration, we are approaching financial order the same way as families deal with their budgets; pay your bills and make every dollar count. We will provide financial transparency and restore balance to our economy.
In Ontario, a strong economy requires an accountable government you can trust. Accountability, transparency, and trust are integral. The conventional approach to ‘sweeping it under the rug’ is not the approach we employ. Our government has established an independent Financial Commission to closely monitor and review expenditures.
Recently released in the Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review, was the 2018-19 deficit report—currently at $14.5 billion. Since we have taken government, the province has saved approximately $3.2 billion in expenses without cutting public services. We have scrapped the cap-and-trade carbon tax, which has offered significant savings and kept $2.7 billion in the pockets of people and of small business.
Today Ontario is $347 billion in debt. Statistically, that figure suggests that each individual in Ontario is more than $24,000 in debt and the interest continues to grow. According to the Ministry of Finance (MOF), we will have to pay $12.5 billion this year to service this debt. With regard to the province’s expenses, interest on the debt ranks fourth following healthcare, education, and social services. The dollars that go to paying our debt restrict crucial public services that are meant to benefit Ontarians.
In order to present a clear picture of Ontario’s finances, our government must restore transparent reporting practices. Under the previous government, according to Auditor General of Ontario Bonnie Lysyk, accounting practices were “not a reasonable presentation of Ontario’s finances.”
Our government has proposed tax cuts and tax relief that are efficient and save money. Not only have we cancelled the previous proposed tax on beer, but we have proposed important tax relief for individuals, families, and small businesses.
We have announced LIFT— the Low- Income Individuals and Family Tax credit — which would offer individuals $850 in tax relief and couples $1,700. Putting this into perspective, about 17 percent of individuals and families would receive this tax relief. Any minimum wage worker or person who has an income of less than $30,000 or a family earning less than $60,000 would benefit by paying no provincial income tax.
The ultimate goal is to put more money in the pockets of the people while being explicit and transparent with the province’s books. Although the road ahead looks rough and will not be easy, our government has the means to implement programs and balance a budget that is conducive to everyone’s financial well-being. We will strategize to reduce debt and save money, but not at the expense of people.
Our government will achieve the trust of people and be accountable. From tax cuts to a solid plan for restoring Ontario’s financial house, our government has a plan for the people. Consequent to the previous government’s money mismanagement and reckless spending, we are prioritizing fiscal stability for the province and financial security and stability for all who reside in it — individuals, families, and businesses alike.
Toby Barrett is MPP for Haldimand Norfolk