pnwthc · 2021-02-22

Pressure on Liberal budget to deliver

Ontario’s Finance Minister, Dwight Duncan, will deliver his government’s much-anticipated provincial budget on Thursday and area officials will be watching closely to see what goodies it contains.

Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson told The Stayner Sun he will be looking for the Liberals to deliver several key things for Ontarians, who are struggling to survive the economic downturn.

For starters, Wilson said the government should implement a three-month sales tax holiday for the purchase of new cars. He said the move would help people wanting to buy a new vehicle and aid the automotive industry.

Continuing on the vehicle theme, Wilson said the government should introduce an incentive to get old cars off the road. He suggested a $2,000 rebate towards the purchase or lease of a new car, when an older vehicle – say 10 years or more – is turned in. He said the move would stimulate the economy and help the environment.

As well, the Conservative MPP said the government should "implement broad-based relief to Ontario businesses, including, but not limited to, moving the corporate tax rate down from 14 per cent to 10 per cent. Doing so means all provinces in Canada have the same rate, which would result in Canada having the lowest corporate taxes in the G8. Other provinces are doing it. We should too."

The Liberals would also be wise to implement a retail sales tax holiday on hotels and attractions to promote Ontario tourism, a move that would benefit everywhere, Wilson said.

Another smart move the government could make would be to introduce a "five per cent annual cap on property assessment increases and send MPAC assessors back into the field immediately to bring assessments inline with actual property values," Wilson said.

In other areas, Wilson said he would like to see the government fast track the Highway 26 redevelopment and start planning for the highway to be redeveloped all the way to Barrie.

He also wants to see the government "introduce an initiative to immediately begin [building] new long-term care beds throughout Simcoe and Grey counties to bring the exceptionally high waiting lists down."

Clearview Township Mayor Ken Ferguson said he wants the budget to provide funding for municipal infrastructure but also for other areas.

"There are bigger things than just infrastructure [money] for municipalities," he told The Stayner Sun. "Farmers, entrepreneurs, small business owners – they all need help right now. All of these groups interest me."

Despite wanting the Liberal government to loosen its purse strings, Ferguson said he questions whether such a move will have any long-term impact on the struggling economy, a thought he said many others are mulling over.

"You can throw money at a lot of things but what if it doesn’t work? What about next year and the year after that?"

Ferguson said that whatever funding the government does announce with Thursday’s budget, it needs to make sure the details are communicated.

"Show people how you’re going to do things. Tell them. Don’t dribble out announcement after announcement after the budget for the next four or six weeks," he said. "Whatever you’re doing, get the information out on the street fast so people can start accessing things."

He said Clearview has lots of projects on which it could spend provincial dollars.

He said funds could be put towards improving another bridge in the municipality.

Also, funds could be used to rebuild Nottawasaga Concession 10, to County Road 91 – a project that Ferguson said will cost $3-million to $4-million.

Clearview could also use money to help pay for the new emergency centre hub – a facility that will house the fire department, police and ambulance – on the eastern edge of Stayner.

And, he said, funding could also be put towards the new library branch that’s needed in Stayner.

"We have lots of spots where we can spend money," the mayor said.

Premier Dalton McGuinty announced Monday that his government will spend $27.5-billion on roads, schools, hospitals and public transit over the next two years in an effort to create 300,000 new jobs.

McGuinty said the huge infrastructure investment – which he said will be detailed in Thursday’s budget – will be topped up with another $5-bilion from the federal government.

Finance Minister Duncan has indicated that this week’s budget will include a deficit of about $18-billion over two years.

Doug Mills is on Clearview Township’s economic development committee. He said he expects the Liberal budget to focus on helping the automotive industry because of its huge presence in Ontario.

"Help for small and medium size business – I’m not holding my breath. You’ve got to remember tax revenues are down," Mills said.

He added that with more Ontarians out of work and an aging population, the government might focus attention on health care and education.

Debbie Kesheshian is the executive director of the United Way of South Georgian Bay, an agency that helps fund various social organizations and programs.

She said the budget should include funding for an array of social programs, in particular the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy.

"It’s fine to have these strategies but they need to be funded," she said.

The strategy, announced in 2008, aims to reduce youth poverty by 25 per cent in five years, Kesheshian said.

She said the Liberals should present a budget that does more to help the disabled and unemployed.

And the budget should include stipulations that allow for more tax benefits for people and corporations that are donating to charities.

The Liberals should also invest in proven charitable organizations. Kesheshian said charitable organizations can often deliver services and programs far more cost effectively than government.

A budget that included more Ontario child benefits and an increased minimum wage would also be helpful, she said.