News Local

Calling for more accountability in budget

By Miriam King, Bradford Times

MPP for York Simcoe, Julia Munro, left, chats with Rod Hicks and Anne Kell at Coffee Culture in Bradford, Ont. on Friday February 26, 2016. Miriam King/Bradford Times/Postmedia Network

MPP for York Simcoe, Julia Munro, left, chats with Rod Hicks and Anne Kell at Coffee Culture in Bradford, Ont. on Friday February 26, 2016. Miriam King/Bradford Times/Postmedia Network

The Provincial government of Kathleen Wynne released details of its 2016-2017 budget, February 25 – and MPP for York-Simcoe, Julia Munro was not impressed. “There's not a lot of interest in it,” she said, at an impromptu open house, held at Coffee Culture Cafe & Eatery in Bradford the next morning.

Munro stopped by the coffee house to talk with residents about the budget, and the concerns of the Progressive Conservative party.

The Budget includes a promised Greenhouse Gas cap and trade system, that will add 4.3 cents per litre to the cost of gas, and about $5 per month to natural gas heating bills, next year.

The provincial government has promised to direct the estimated $1.9 billion in new revenues towards energy efficiency programs, including transit – but Munro is doubtful, wondering if the funds will end up in general revenues. “That's the big question.”

The Budget will also eliminate tuition fees for students of families earning $50,000 or less – but the benefit is limited to a “narrow band” of people, Munro said, pointing out that 70% of families won't be eligible for enhanced assistance.

She also questioned whether the new program will be in place by September, in time to affect students this year. When time-sensitive programs are delayed in implementation, she noted, “the money might not all get spent.”

But her biggest concern was reserved for health care spending.

“They will argue it's a 1-2% increase, but you've got to look at it from the view of the public... When they see layoffs of RNs and RPNs, and 50 fewer residencies – how can you be managing the system when you have layoffs?” Munro said.

In fact, the increase in spending amounts to less than 1% for most hospitals - much less than the rate of inflation, and therefore a reduction in real dollars.

And as of August 1, the threshold for the Low-income Seniors' benefits will rise, the annual deductible increase from $100 to $170, and co-payments increase by $1, creating an additional burden on fixed-income Seniors.

The PC party is calling for a provincial plan for energy affordability, including a halt to the further sale of shares of Hydro One; a plan to properly manage Ontario's health care system; and a plan to balance the budget and pay down the debt, which now totals over $300 Billion.

“More people are understanding that this cannot go on,” Munro said. “Rhyming off dollars (in a budget) does not amount to accountability.”