Miller to vote against Liberal budget
MPP does not see job creation, spending restraint
Photo by Neil Etienne
PARRY SOUND-MUSKOKA - Norm Miller says he will vote against the Liberal government’s budget.
The member of provincial parliament for Parry Sound-Muskoka called the budget, presented by provincial Finance Minister Dwight Duncan on Tuesday, weak. He said it fails to make the structural changes necessary to avoid a $30-billion future deficit, while it throws up barriers to private sector job creation.
“So it cannot be supported,” said Miller.
The provincial Conservatives plan to vote against the budget en masse, possibly triggering an election just six months after Ontario last went to the polls.
Are Muskokans ready for a May election? This newspaper asked Miller that question in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
“No — and I certainly don’t want an election,” he said. “Having said that, we can’t support the government’s out-of-control spending. An election is the last thing I want or the general public wants.”
Asked if his party would be open to discussion with the Liberals he said, “I suppose if they wanted to drastically change it — they have produced a document we can’t support.”
The government said the budget is on track to save $17.7 billion over the next three years while it increases revenues by $4.4 billion without tax hikes.
The budget doesn’t appear to be popular with social rights groups critical of the freeze on welfare payments, or with public service unions, which are irate at wage freezes and proposed changes to pensions.
The rate freeze on social assistance payments will hit Muskoka’s poorest residents most.
But Miller said a Conservative government would go much deeper to find cuts.
“There should be a wage freeze across the entire public sector to get us back in a balanced position,” he said. “The scariest thing is the way they’re continuing to rack up the debt — eventually that has to be dealt with.”
Tackling the debt was recommended in the Drummond Report, to keep Ontario’s credit rating at its current level.
The cost of servicing Ontario’s debt is approximately $10 billion, the third-largest annual expense behind health care and education, according to a government press release. To put this in perspective, Ontario spends more money on interest each year than on colleges and universities.
For every one per cent increase in interest rates, the cost to service the debt rises by $467 million in the first year of the increase. If no action is taken to balance the budget, Ontario would pay almost as much to service the debt in 2017-18 as it spends on education today, it stated.
The New Democratic Party, which may end up casting the deciding vote on whether the government falls, has said it wants to hear from the people before making up its mind to support or vote down the budget. It will also look to the Liberals to make concessions.
The Conservatives, however, have dismissed the budget out of hand.
“There is not enough action to address the jobs crisis in the province,” said Miller, adding that his party advocates greater spending restraint.
“They do seem to be good at looking for pockets of money on the revenue side of the budget,” he said, indicating that two major areas of revenue identified are from 25 new LCBO stores and gaming.
“It’s booze basically and gambling,” he said. “And there’s all sorts of places in the budget where they’re increasing fees.”
Two areas of increased fees will be for driver’s licences and prescriptions for high-income seniors.