Why I will be voting against the 2015-16 budget

By MPP Toby Barrett

We are now debating the budget at Queen’s Park and, from my view, there’s little in it to benefit people in Ontario.

I see a lot of policy changes that not a single Ontarian voted for.

There’s the fire sale of our public assets like Hydro One and a pension payroll tax. There’s the commitment to the carbon tax and a cut to health care dollars. There’s a $100 million tax on beer, an increase in the aviation fuel tax, more user fees, cuts to apprenticeship tax credits and the film industry and – most shocking – an increased deficit for the third year in a row.

The Liberal party didn’t campaign on any of these things, not one.

Only this government could think the way out of a hole is to keep digging.

This government knows full well that interest on the debt — tax dollars that the province literally flushes down the drain — is over $11 billion this year. It’s growing at an annual rate of 5.4 per cent. By comparison, health care funding is only growing at 1.9 per cent, and education spending is even lower than that.

Ontario can’t afford this lack of financial planning. That’s why, we asked for a credible and detailed plan to balance the books. Instead, they put forward a budget simply hoping the deficit would disappear.

This year’s budget plans to cap spending, but doesn’t say how. It plans to increase revenue, but again, doesn’t say how.

We have raised concerns about choices regarding the existing $27-billion hydro debt. That debt is supposed to be paid off by the money Hydro One makes. Now that money – 60 per cent of it – will go to the sell-off, and the debt will balloon.

Electricity bills have tripled since the Liberals took office and they’re only going to increase with the majority sale of Hydro One. Not only could the government not guarantee hydro savings, but they actually removed Auditor General and Ombudsman oversight of Hydro One. Now Ontarians will be forced to pay higher bills without any explanation as to why.

The privatization of Hydro One should be done to improve customer service, to create lower rates and to improve the efficiency of the organization, not to find money to pay off wasteful spending.

Similarly, Ontario’s home care system is a mess. As Opposition, we recommended tying funding for Community Care Access Centres directly to outcomes and streamlining the bureaucracies a patient must deal with in order to get care. Sadly, that is nowhere to be found in this budget.

The budget will force the Auditor General to submit her audits in full to the government before releasing it to the public. This government is embarrassed by the Auditor General doing her job and exposing things like a wasteful $2 billion smart meter program or the $1.1 billion wasted on relocating gas plants. The auditor’s oversight should not be muzzled. This will actually make government less accountable, less open and less transparent.

This budget doesn’t address the most pressing problems of the day. It takes more money out of people’s pockets and raises the cost of living for everyone. For these reasons, I will be voting against.