2013 Budget – Full of rhetoric, short on substance

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Queen’s Park – Premier Wynne’s first budget fails its own test by having no substantial plan to create a prosperous and fair society. 
“The Liberal budget puts off bold action on local job creation, climate change and income inequality,” says Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario. “This is a bait and switch budget that is high on rhetoric and low on substance. It fails to deliver prosperity or fairness.”
 
Supporting Small Business
 
Supporting resilient local economies generates prosperity and improves our quality of life. Although the Liberals say that lowering payroll taxes on small businesses is essential to prosperity, they have offered only crumbs. The Green Party supports doubling the exemption level for the Employer Health Tax from $400,000 in payroll to $800,000. Instead, the Liberals will increase it by a paltry $50,000.
 
There is absolutely no mention in the budget about the need to transform Ontario’s economy to be a world leader in the emerging clean technology and low carbon global economy. The Green Party’s call for a clean technology innovation investment tax credit fell on deaf ears.
 
Transportation
 
Thanks to the NDP there is a lot in this budget about making driving cheaper. There is nothing about making our cycling safer or walking easier. The budget promises $35 billion for infrastructure – but not a dime is dedicated to walking or cycling infrastructure.
 
For all of the Premier’s talk about funding transit, there is no bold plan to do it in the budget. The NDP’s opposition to transit funding likely prevented action in this budget. This is a failure – we must make it easier and cheaper for people to choose transit over cars. This is essential to reducing greenhouse gas pollution, while improving our economy.
 
Social Assistance and Energy
 
The Liberal budget continues to spend a billion dollars to subsidize energy consumption that, without an income test, mostly benefits the wealthy. Meanwhile they have failed to find $340 million to transform social assistance programs to reduce poverty. Yet again, this budget fails to allocate $90 million to support Ontario’s most vulnerable children.
 
“Budgets are about choices, and the Green Party chooses to reduce poverty and pollution,” said Schreiner. “The Liberal budget chooses to subsidize pollution and short-change poverty reduction.”
 
For all the rhetoric about fairness, the budget fails to start a conversation about creating fair, fiscally responsible schools. Instead of attacking teachers, closing schools and laying off education support staff, the Green Party believes Ontario needs to merge the Catholic and public school boards. Ending duplication could save between $1.2 and $1.6 billion dollars.
 
“The Liberals have wasted $2.5 billion on the Clean Energy Benefit so far,” says Kevin O’Donnell, Green Party Deputy leader and finance critic. “That $2.5 billion, and another $2.5 billion in the next two years, could be much better spent on delivering fairness to low-income families, and investing in the economy of the future.”