BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: More action must be taken by the province in combating issues such as youth unemployment and looming job losses from changes to Ontario's gaming industry, said Durham MPP John O'Toole following a recent discussion of the 2013 Ontario budget.
The veteran MPP hosted a pair of post-budget discussions - one in Bowmanville and another in Port Perry - in his riding last Friday (May 3), dissecting the various proposals and potential impacts contained within the document. This was the first budget under Premier Kathleen Wynne, presented at Queen's Park by Finance Minister Charles Sousa on May 2, amidst the controversy of the growing costs in the cancellation of two gas power plants in Oakville and Mississauga.
The budget, deemed a "non-event" by local financial advisor Brian Callery (who accompanied Mr. O'Toole at the presentation) contained a number of measures which, like many in the province, Mr. O'Toole chalked up to being aimed squarely at the NDP to garner support for the minority government and avoid an election, including a guarantee of five days of homecare for house-bound Ontarians, a proposed 15 per cent reduction to car insurance rates, and $295 million toward the creation of a youth job strategy, the latter two criticized by Mr. O'Toole as "lacking framework" in terms of when and how the programs would be implemented.
"There's no plan in the youth job initiative," said Mr. O'Toole. "We need to look beyond and toward what the jobs of the future are."
For Mr. O'Toole, the main issues in the province stem from a continued move "from taxing income to taxing consumption" through programs such as the HST, as well as continued spending that exceeds provincial revenues.
"We've reached a point where we are going to have to ask some serious questions (about the province's spending programs)," said Mr. O'Toole. "We're going to need more accountability before taking in more revenue."
While the budget contains provisions aimed at small municipalities such as a 'dedicated fund' toward the expansion of rural infrastructure, Scugog Mayor Chuck Mercier assessed the budget from the municipal perspective as containing "lots of unknowns," with more attention needed toward decreasing Ontario's deficit, currently assessed at $11.7 billion.
"I was hoping to see longer-term restraint," said the mayor. "The deficit is not helping any of us. We have huge issues in this province and it should be about trying to think beyond the budget and tackling the deficit."
Locally, Mr. O'Toole said that keeping jobs in the riding is his top concern, through programs like the youth employment strategy and also through retaining existing
positions. In regards to the last point, he said that the province must look at keeping the Great Blue Heron Charity Casino viable in light of changes at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission (OLG), including proposals to build a new casino in Toronto.
"For this community," he said, "any job losses at this casino would be devastating and we need to demand a solution."
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