The Ontario Government has unveiled its 2017 budget, and what it means for people in Northern Ontario depends on who you ask. Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli says after over a year of waiting, the government has confirmed his suspicions that they’ve given up on Northern Ontario communities. Fedeli says the budget contains a massive $5 billion operational deficit and does little for the people of Northern Ontario.
In order to artificially balance their budget, Fedeli says they used $2 billion from cap and trade, over $500 million in pension assets, $1.5 billion in money from a federal transfer, and $1 billion from the sale of Hydro One and government properties. He says the budget takes a massive cut of $70 million out of the Ministry of Northern Development and mines, and added the ministry helps to establish mining operations all over Northern Ontario, creating good well-paying jobs but is obviously not a concern of this government.
Fedeli says it also came as a serious shock to see that this year’s budget removed all mention of the Ring of Fire. He says after three years of promises by Kathleen Wynne, her government has completely abandoned the mining project. Fedeli says even with an extra $5 billion of one-time funds, the Liberal government has still found a way to leave the people of rural and Northern Ontario with less. He finished by saying this is shocking and disappointing to Northerners and the government should be ashamed.
Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault, the MPP for Sudbury, says Northerners should be extremely pleased with this budget. Thibeault says they are going to see upgrades to highways in the North, and a Northern Ontario multi-model transportation strategy. He says that’s going to help with road, rail, air and marine transportation. Thibeault says specifically for North Bay, the First Nations Technical Institute that operates a flight program in partnership with Canadore College is getting funding. He added 72 new long term care beds will be added in Mattawa, and there’s a lot more for the North as well.
Starting January 1st, 2018 the government will launch OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare, which will provide universal drug coverage to all children and youth aged 24 years and younger. Thibeault says that will have a profound impact on people in Northern Ontario, and there’s also more money coming for hospitals. Thibeault says more than $1-billion will go towards cutting down on wait times at hospitals, and they’re also increasing hospital operating budgets by three per cent so they can offer more services that people need.
As far as the Ring of Fire is concerned, Thibeault says the government is completely committed to the project. He says everything remains the same even though it wasn’t mentioned in the budget. Thibeault says they’re continuing to work hard to make sure they create the right conditions for private and public investment in the development. He says the $1-billion from the government is still there, and they are working with the First Nations communities around the area to get this done. Thibeault says they want to see this done as quickly as possible, but also done right. Thibeault finished by saying just because it’s not mentioned in the budget doesn’t mean the government is walking away from a project that’s so important not only for Northern Ontario, but the entire province.