The Ontario government intends to bring its budget down some time in April. As NDP finance critic, I sit on the finance committee of the Legislative Assembly.
The committee has held five days of pre-budget hearings to date – in Windsor, Timmins, Ottawa and Toronto. We recently added one day in Thunder Bay on April 3. The purpose of these hearings is to hear what the public wants to see in the provincial budget.
After hearing from dozens of groups and individuals, one thing is clear – people expect this government to make life better for all Ontarians. We heard from parents who have children with disabilities, health care professionals, firefighters, small businesses and chambers of commerce, amongst many others.
New Democrats are asking for six key items in this budget that we believe will make life better for us all.
1. End corporate tax loop holes
Ontario will lose more than a billion dollars every year as corporations write off the HST expenses on things like dining, company cars and entertainment. It’s time to finally say “no” and end the free ride on the Ontario citizen’s dime.
2. On-the-job training for youth – ‘First Start’ youth jobs program
Young people face double the unemployment rate while others find themselves stuck in part-time positions. Let’s work with employers to create jobs that will also train our young people.
Our plan seeks to provide young people aged 16-26 years an entry point to long-term employment opportunities. A maximum $7,800 government contribution per job would be provided in the form of a wage subsidy. All jobs would last a minimum of four to six months, include on-the-job training and skills development, provide at least 30 hours of work per week and pay at least $12 an hour. An emphasis will be placed on moving young people into sustained jobs with an expectation that private sector employers would retain young people past the six month minimum period.
3. Opening doors to employment
People on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program face barriers to securing jobs. We must open the doors and encourage employment by allowing recipients to keep the first $200 they earn each month while slowly re-entering the work force.
4. A 15 per cent cut to auto insurance rates
Ontario has the highest rates in Canada, and our premiums continue to rise even as insurance company profits increase. We are extremely disappointed that the government doesn’t realize Ontarians need a break on their auto insurance. We should be giving safe Ontario drivers a break.
For two years drivers have been told lower rates were coming – and instead they’ve been hit with higher bills. Industry figures show government policy changes allowed insurance companies to earn $2 billion extra in 2011 alone – while at the same time premiums went up five per cent.
A 15 per cent reduction would reduce average premiums to $1,279 from $1,505 – a savings of $226 for an average Ontario driver.
5. A balanced approach to balancing the budget
Ontarians are frustrated at seeing their money wasted on expensive scandals like ORNGE, eHealth and the gas plants fiasco. We want a commitment to find savings, including a hard cap on public sector senior executive salaries, while protecting the quality of our services.
6. A five-day home care guarantee for seniors
It isn’t right that some seniors have had to wait more than 200 days for home care help in order to stay in their homes.
According to Ontario’s Auditor General, some Ontarians wait as long as six months to receive home care services. Currently, there are approximately 6,100 Ontarians on the home care wait list. A home care guarantee will ensure seniors receive health care service they need within five days.
Michael Prue is a Member of Provincial Parliament representing Beaches-East York.
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