Spring budget is not the relief Ontario needs

By MPP Toby Barrett

As many will know, this spring’s Ontario budget proposes a spending spree that calls for billions more in debt, and six additional years of deficit. This was supposed to be a balanced budget.

The tax hikes to pay for these promises have already started. For example, a carton of smokes just went up four dollars. Massive tax hikes have been announced on everything from personal income taxes to railway right-of-ways. The increases amount to over $2 billion over the next three years. These new taxes will hit 1.8 million working people, as well as tens of thousands of businesses.

The day after the budget, Ontario’s governing party, supported by the third party, voted down my Private Member’s motion to reduce taxes where feasible; to not introduce any new taxes and not raise existing taxes.

My view, as reflected in my motion, is Ontario taxpayers are having a hard time making ends meet. In the best interest of individuals, businesses and hardworking families — as well as for Ontario’s economy — government must provide measures that will give taxpayers relief.

High taxes kill jobs, undermine government revenues and slow economic growth. That’s why the government of Ontario must hold the line and, where appropriate, cut provincial income taxes.

Tax cuts, or at a minimum holding the line on taxes, are an integral part of any comprehensive economic policy that includes the elimination of bureaucratic red tape, restructuring of government services for greater efficiency, and balancing the books.

Instead of a knee-jerk reaction to pick taxpayers’ pockets, government should seek efficiencies– cutting the waste and cutting red tape, before thinking of tapping tapped-out taxpayers. This current government does not have a tax revenue problem, but rather a serious spending problem.

I would add Ontario residents today are not only living under the burden of high taxes, but also high electricity and energy costs. On top of that, it seems just about every provincial fee, stipend and revenue tool under the sun has been increased over the past decade-and-a-half.  Many families just can’t afford to make these extra expenditures. So forget about a new fridge, new stove, home repairs, a new car, or dinner out.

A strong economy is no accident. It takes careful budgeting and decision-making by government in order to help keep the economy rolling and, perhaps more importantly, strong planning must keep government out of the way. Behind all government services that matter to people – accessible health care, quality education, safe communities – there is a strong economy. Without a strong economy, Ontario would not be able to reinvest in these important programs.

The present Ontario government is mortgaging the future—Ontario’s future—on a generation that doesn’t even have a running start due to fiscal mismanagement. It’s not only our children, but also our grandchildren and future generations who are going to be burdened with paying off government debt through ever-increasing taxes. To paraphrase the famous quote from Ben Franklin – in today’s Ontario, nothing can be certain except death, debt and taxes.

If this vote on my motion one day after the budget is any indication, we could be in for more years of taxing and spending if this government returns to power.

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk