UPDATE: Ontario Budget Unveiled

Feelings are mixed after Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa unveiled a $130.4-billion provincial budget, with a projected $12.5-billion deficit.

Sousa says the province will balance the 2014 budget in 2017/18.

The governing Liberals promise to invest $11.4-billion for hospital expansions and redevelopment over the next ten years. The document also sets aside $29-billion for transportation infrastructure and public transit.

Chatham-Kent Essex MPP Rick Nicholls says the spending in the budget is what really concerns him.

“It’s going to cost more to live in Ontario, and in Chatham-Kent Essex as well, that’s the bottom line,” says Nicholls. “This budget burdens Ontarians and job creators with increased taxes. That’s not what we need.”

Terry Yoldo, a convenience store owner in Windsor, says it’s likely more small businesses will close due to the increases in cigarette taxes and hydro rates.

“(The taxes) already take away 30% to 40% percent of our business now. So this is more of a reason for someone to buy their cigarettes illegally, rather than pay these ridiculous taxes,” says Yoldo. “It’s not fair for the cigarette consumers to be targeted for an easy tax grab when our government doesn’t know how to manage their books.”

Not all of the reactions towards the 2014 budget were negative. Unifor Local 444 president in Windsor Dino Chiodo says he is in favour of the proposed prosperity fund.

“This is now infusing $250-million, potentially, in aerospace, automobiles, forestry — really any sector of the economy that can have some potential growth, and I think that’s what’s needed,” says Chiodo.

The Progressive Conservative Party has said it will vote against the budget, and the Liberals must gain the support of the New Democrats to pass the document and avoid a spring election.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has given NDP Leader Andrea Horwath one week to decide if her party is going to support the $130.4-billion spending blueprint.

Windsor-West MPP Teresa Piruzza says she believes the recent budget is fair and will ensure the Ontario economy “stays strong.” She says she can’t speak on the possible actions of the NDP, but “what will come, will come.”

“If we’re asked to go to an election, I believe we’ve set our priorities,” says Piruzza. “If there’s a campaign, so be it. But I guess we’ll find that out in the coming days or weeks.”

Horwath, who can decide the fate of the minority government, did not go before reporters to comment on the budget, thus heightening speculation that the province is headed towards an election.

Horwath is holding a press conference in Toronto Friday at 10am to respond to the budget.

Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton says he’s very disappointed in the new provincial budget and hopes Ontario residents will soon be heading to the polls.

“The people I’ve talked to across southwestern Ontario know we need a change at Queens Park,” says McNaughton. “After almost 12 years in power, the Dalton McGuinty/Kathleen Wynne Liberals, I think, need to go. We have at least two OPP investigations going on at Queens Park, first for the gas plants and secondly with Ornge. So I think there’s no credibility left.”

Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope says an election would be bad news for the municipality of Chatham-Kent.

“When an election is called, that means everything goes in neutral,” says Hope. “In this community we’ve been working extremely hard on creating jobs and creating employment. We’ve got a number of companies interested in Chatham-Kent. The last thing I want to see is them stalled because an election was called.”