Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan presents his 2012 budget
The province delays planned cuts in corporate tax rates and calls for a two-year wage freeze for nurses, teachers and about one million public servants.
"Some would choose cut nearly 10,000 teaching jobs and 10,000 non teaching jobs eroding the quality of our kids education. Mr. Speaker we choose to protect those jobs," he said.
Duncan says the government will respect the collective bargaining process with teachers, nurses and about one-million public workers, but will impose legislation to freeze their wages over the next two years if necessary.
"Some would let people wait longer for medical care, we choose to keep the shortest surgical wait times in Canada," he said.
Earlier in the day, Opposition Leader Tim Hudak said he would vote against the budget, and his mind wasn't changed by the minister's speech.
“This is the time for tough and responsible fiscal management,” Hudak said. “Yet today’s budget is a weak and disappointing response to Ontario’s jobs and spending crisis.
“In fact, it actually puts up roadblocks to the very economic growth its assumptions are pinned on.”
Hudak said it all shows that the premier does not grasp the seriousness of Ontario’s situation – having failed to move off the path toward a $30 billion deficit with his uncontrolled spending.
“Instead he has made long-term commitments to pet projects with no way to pay for them, while grabbing for short-term revenues through one-off asset sales and fee increases.”
NDP leader Andrea Horwath says the budget falls short of her expectations, but she will consult with Ontarians, before making a decision.
“For families worried about their jobs, their health and the growing cost of living this budget falls short. We’re going to be listening to the everyday people who will be affected by the budget, and we’ll be putting their interests first in the days ahead,” she said Horwath.
“We’re committed to making this minority government work as long as it provides results for people,” she added.
According to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the province has indicated that the 10 Year Infrastructure Plan's allocation of $35 billion over three years for all public sector infrastructure will remain. In a prepared statement, they said they expect that this will help municipal governments, particularly with the most urgent needs. However, as the premier indicated a month ago, the 2012 Budget does not capture the new funding for roads and bridges that he committed to at the 2011 AMO Conference.
President Gary McNamara added it was critical to get their pension fund for municipal employees, OMERS, on a better footing.
"People may not like to hear that, but the reality is that we need to create a sustainability in the pension fund, so that it's there meeting the requirements for our employees," he said.
The finance minister suggested his may go beyond reviewing contributions by employers to a consideration of pooling pension funds for better returns.
Sioux Lookout Mayor Dennis Leney reserved comment, until he'd read the estimates in more detail.
Dryden Mayor Craig Nutall said that his biggest concern was the cuts to roads and bridges.
" Well it looks like they're going to cut $1.4 billion in roads, I don't think that's a good idea because our infrastructure around here, roads are falling apart especially our highway through the town.
He also noted the pay freezes for teachers, nurses and public servants.
"I think we all have to take a shot in the arm and I guess that's one area that the government is looking at. Even the city here, all of the councillors and myself are on a pay freeze for the past two years," he added.
While debate on the spending bill's expected to begin tomorrow morning at Queen's Park, a vote's not expected until next week. The government needs at least two opposition members to vote with them, or face a spring election.
To read the budget speech:
2012 Budget Speech
To hear the budget speech:
Opposition Leader Tim Hudak's comments:
Tim Hudak on provincial budget
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on budget speech: