Good, bad and ugly in provincial budget
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | April 4, 2018
There’s “good, bad and ugly” in last week’s provincial budget, Minden Hills mayor and former county warden, Brent Devolin, says.
The ‘good’ he told his council March 29, is that the government is investing $500 million over three years in a bid to enhance broadband in northern and rural communities. Included in the pledge is specific spending directed at bettering Eastern Ontario’s cellular coverage, and money to aid the creation of a satellite network that will provide intenet access to remote communities.
The Eastern Ontario Regional Network has been lobbying for just such a provincial government spend for more than a year. Devolin called the announcement “a watershed moment” for Haliburton County.
He added that he had talked to Conservative MPP Laurie Scott and she indicated her party would also support such an initiative if it forms government after the June election.
However, the bad and ugly included a projected $6.8B deficit, Devolin said, as well as a failure to do anything to address Ontario’s multi-billion dollar infrastructure deficit gap. The Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce said the Ontario Government is harmonizing with the federal government’s eligibility criteria, leaving more than 20,000 employers paying $100 million more in employment health tax over the next three years.
In addition, businesses will be phased out of the small business deduction if they earn between $50,000 and $150,000 of passive investment income in the taxation year, resulting in an additional $350 million in new taxes for Ontario businesses.
“Although the government is making smart investments in skills development, the ever-rising cost of doing business in Ontario is hindering economic growth,” said chamber vice president Linda Baumgartner. “The Ontario Budget not only fails to provide the offsets our members need, it will leave some businesses, including small businesses, paying more in taxes.”
She said they’re also concerned with the “precarious fiscal situation” the newly announced investments will create. However, she added they do support regional economic development funding, new dollars for public transit, the broadband spend, and additional resources for apprenticeship and skills development. Scott said in a press release, “the 2018 provincial budget is a thinly-veiled attempt to pull the wool over Ontarians’ eyes. That’s what I’m hearing from people in our community, and they’re right to be cynical. Predictably, the Wynne government has reached into their bag of vote-buying tricks to try and save themselves.”
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.