“…Protecting and building on Ontario′s achievements, while returning to balance in 2017–18, are the cornerstones of the 2012 Budget.”
This was a statement delivered by the Ontario Liberal Finance Minister Dwight Duncan during the opening speech of the 2012 Ontario Budget on March 27th.
Although Ontario is still enduring a 15.3 billion dollar deficit, very little ripples are felt in the low to mid income families. MPPs are expected to have their wage freeze extended for the next two years, along with executives at hospitals, post-secondary schools, school boards and agencies. The Liberal budget also calls to end more executive perks for the public sector.
Duncan is also planning on increasing the Ontario Child Benefit, unfortunately not as soon as originally anticipated, but it is scheduled to be increased. With the new budget, the increase will be by $100.00 in July 2013 and by another $100.00 the following year, thus making the OCB $300.00 a month by July 2014.
Another benefit in Minister Duncan’s budget was to continue with the Ontario Clean Energy benefit. This benefit assists homeowners with a 10% rebate on the total cost of electricity charges. As of right now, it is not scheduled to be in place until December 31, 2015.
A major change in the budget is how company pensions are going to be handled. According to Duncan, “One way to help make our jointly sponsored pension plans more sustainable is to change the way they address pension shortfalls. When a public-sector pension plan has suffered a pension shortfall … Taxpayers have been called upon to make higher contributions.” The Liberal government believes that it is not fair to expect a low income single family with no pension plan to have to pay into the pension fund of others. By working closely together with the public sector, the budget wants to eliminate the effect on tax payers’ pockets when a pension fund is in a deficit by reducing some of the pension benefits offered. The change in the pension benefit would have no affect on people that are already retired and on company pension. Before making any changes, the Liberal government plans to consult with the opposing parties and begin talking with residents of Ontario- with and without public pensions- to “strengthen” the pension plans. Currently, most employees with public-sector pension plans contribute less into their plan than their employers do. With the proposed changes, these same employees would be equally sharing the costs of the pension plans with their employers.
In hopes of collecting more taxes, the Liberal government plans to open at least 25 large LCBO stores.
However, according to an article on the Daily Commercial News website, the Liberal budget is not favored by the opposition parties. The Ontario PC leader, Tim Hudak called the budget “surprisingly weak”. He claims that his party will not support a budget that has no clear plan for job creation, out of control spending and no plan for everyday cost reduction.
While the PC focus is placed on creating at least 200,000 jobs in the skilled trades, NDP leader Andrea Horwath prefers to speak to Ontarians about the proper course of action, questioning if the Liberal government was keeping the public in mind while creating their budget. Horwath was quoted “…when the priority of people is jobs, a budget that doesn’t set out a plan for job creation really falls short of the mark.”
Premier Dalton McGuinty has since opened up the floor at Queen’s Park for discussion on the budget. Although it may be a while before a decision is reached, McGuinty is adamant the deficit is wiped out in the next five years.