By Jenn Watt
The provincial Liberals’ budget offers plenty of policy changes and spending commitments but under that is an unstable foundation of crippling debt says local Conservative MPP Laurie Scott.
“Everything’s going to get more expensive” she said in a phone interview from Wilberforce on Friday after attending the opening of the food centre there. She pointed out the symbolism of having to open a food bank on the day the government announced prices of gas and home heating would be rising.
“I already have lots of people who … have a hard time paying their hydro bills” she said.
The provincial government plans to spend about $137 billion in the coming year and promises to balance the budget by 2018.
Scott doesn’t believe that will happen.
“This is the ninth consecutive budget that there’s a deficit” she said accusing the Liberals of mismanaging the money throughout their time in government.
The headliner of this year’s budget was undoubtedly the announcement that tuition to postsecondary institutions would be free for youth coming from homes with incomes of $50000 or below. For those families with incomes $83000 and below grants would be available to cover tuition for about half of those students.
Fleming College responded to the policy with enthusiasm.
“We are pleased to see the government make enhanced support for low-income students a priority in its budget” Tony Tilly president of Fleming College said in a press release.
Eighty per cent of Fleming College students use the Ontario Student Assistance Program which currently gives out loans to students that they must pay back after graduating.
The government also announced cap and trade would be coming to companies in Ontario. It would allow businesses to buy and trade emissions credits and will raise about $1.9 billion for the province.
At the same time the price of gas will increase 4.3 cents a litre.
Scott said that increase disproportionately affects those in rural areas who have no option but to drive.
Of most concern is the crushing scale of the debt she said.
“There’s health care education and just paying the interest on the debt – it’s the third largest budget item. It’s larger than tens of ministries combined. It’s larger than they spend on postsecondary education and social services for example” she said.
“A lot of the money that could go to other services we want like health care it’s eaten up by the $11 billion interest payments on that debt.”