By Jenn Watt
Labour Minister and local MPP Laurie Scott said last week’s budget offers stability in key areas such as health and education while creating incentives for business to thrive in Ontario.
Efforts over the last year to boost job creation and support the skilled trades will improve the economy she said pointing to changes in apprenticeship ratios and a new skill-set model.
“This is now going to allow apprentices to train in certain specific components of a trade rather than having to complete the entire trade. It makes it easier on both the employers to take on apprentices with that flexibility and it’s the opportunity and options for apprentices for completing training” Scott said in a phone interview from Kitchener-Waterloo on Monday.
She said since the PCs formed government in 2018 investment announcements have been happening around the province including in Haliburton County such as roof replacement at both Minden and Haliburton health-care sites.
Scott pointed to two new initiatives as having a direct impact on residents of the Highlands: the new Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses or CARE tax credit; and the dental care for low-income seniors program.
CARE provides families up to $6000 a year in the case of children under seven for eligible childcare costs including daycare home-based care and camp. Scott said 87 per cent of households in Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock would qualify for childcare expense relief.
“So parents can have the choice of how they use their credit. It’s relief targeted at low- and middle-income families that will make a big difference” Scott said.
Dental care for low-income seniors would also benefit thousands of residents in the riding she said with a press release from her office stating: “At least two-thirds of low-income seniors do not have access to dental care … There are over 3000 low-income seniors in Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock who could potentially benefit from this program.”
Lisa Kerr of the Volunteer Dental Outreach which currently provides free dental services to those who cannot afford it within Haliburton County said what was announced in the budget still poses challenges for low-income seniors.
“It appears that the plan to provide dental care for seniors will involve asking seniors to travel to a government institution. If this is the case it seems that the dental program will be very difficult for residents of Haliburton County to access. There are currently public health dental clinics in Port Hope and Lindsay which are too far for most low-income Haliburton residents who have difficulty paying for the gas or obtaining rides to these clinics which is a major reason why VDO was started in the first place” she said via email to the Echo.
Scott said mobile dental buses and increasing the number of dental suites would help to bridge that gap.
“There’s that option [mobile dental buses] that they’re hoping to roll out by December but again I think there’s more conversations that need to occur.”
The $163.4 billion budget includes a $10.3 billion deficit for this fiscal year with a plan to return to balance by 2023-2024.
Scott said her party had to take a “reasonable approach” to change and wanted to focus on maintaining vital services.
“We would have preferred … to balance the budget sooner but we recognized that it would be very disruptive and so we have created a climate because we have some pretty good [economic] numbers since we’ve come in … basically where businesses felt assured that the province was moving in the right direction and moving responsibly” she said.