By NOUMAN KHALIL
Brampton businesses are satisfied with one of the toughest and unusual budgets of all times in the history of Ontario.
Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan Tuesday announced $15.2 billion deficit budget entitled “Strong Action for Ontario” freezing the wages for teachers, doctors, nurses, hospitals workers and other public sector employees.
If defeated in the House, the budget may trigger yet another election in May. The Ontario Progressive Party has already threatened to oppose it while the NDP is still undecided.
“It was a very tough budget,” Linda Jeffrey, Minister of Labour and MPP Brampton West, said while addressing the Brampton Board of Trade Wednesday morning. “But it’s about building a bright future for our children and grandchildren.”
Jeffrey said despite the fact tough decisions were made, Peel Memorial is still a priority of the Liberal government and it will continue to get funding as promised.
“Strengthening Ontario and Brampton means making the right choices. Protecting and building on Ontario’s achievements while returning to balance is the cornerstone of this budget. Investing in a strong health system and the new Peel Memorial Centre for Health and Integrated Wellness gives us an economic advantage and is the best choice to make for our future,” said Jeffrey.
“It’s a tough budget in many areas, but we don’t believe it has a huge impact on our businesses at this point. We’re little disappointed about corporate income taxes and we would like to see them in place, but overall it’s a fairly well rounded budget. As a business community, we don’t have much to be dissatisfied,” said Jim Schembri, chair of the BBOT told Guardian.
“We are very pleased that funding for the Peel Memorial is still there,” said Schembri. “This is something that BBOT has lobbied for many years.”
The 2012 budget proposes strong action to balance the budget by 2017-18, including: implementing savings of $4.9 billion over the next three years; freezing the general corporate income tax rate and business education tax rate reductions until the budget is balanced; capping the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit at 3,000kWh per month; changing the Ontario Drug Benefit program so that about five per cent of seniors— those with the highest incomes— pay a larger share of their prescription drug costs; nsuring Ontario user fees recover more of the cost of providing programs and services; extending the pay freeze for MPPs for another two years — for a total of five years; and extending the pay freeze for executives at hospitals, universities, colleges, school boards and agencies for another two years.
“This budget is the required medicine for these tough times. This will keep our schools, hospitals, and economy in good shape while balancing the books in 2017–18,” said Vic Dhillon, MPP for Brampton West.
“It challenges all of us to tighten our belts and ride through this rough period without sacrificing the future of our children and grandchildren.”
The government believes that the 2012 Ontario budget includes a deficit elimination plan that reduces program spending growth and contains costs by $17.7 billion over the next three years, while increasing revenues by $4.4 billion without raising taxes. It also believes it’s a serious action for a serious time that puts Ontario on track to eliminate the deficit by 2017-18.
Meanwhile, PC leader Tim Huddak said, “The budget fails them (Liberals) on two counts. First, it’s not just the total absence of a jobs plan. It’s the fact that the budget actually makes things worse for the job creators who could help get our 600,000 unemployed men and women back to work.”
He said the Liberals increased their tax load by canceling the promised next round of business tax reductions in the midst of an economic downturn.
During the next fiscal year, the government promises to protects Brampton’s priorities, such as:
* Remains committed to funding a new Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness as part of $35 billion dollars of infrastructure investment over the next three years throughout Ontario.
* Will continue to honour its commitment regarding the uploads agreed upon through the Provincial-Municipal Fiscal and Service Delivery Review (PMFSDR).
* Committed to combating auto insurance fraud to reduce the pressure on premiums.
* Will fully implement full-day kindergarten by September 2014.
* Will maintain the 30%-Off Ontario Tuition grant for families.
* Is developing a Seniors Strategy to expand house calls and home care so Brampton seniors get the care they need, when they need, in our community.
* Will maintain current social assistance rates and increase the Ontario Child Benefit to protect the most vulnerable.
By NOUMAN KHALIL