MPP JOURNAL for the week of May 14, 2021


Responsible Choices, a Plan for Tomorrow

Governing is about identifying priorities and making choices. In the 1980s and early 90s, the Liberals and NDP had the wrong priorities. They made the wrong choices. They hiked taxes, allowed government spending to spiral out of control, and failed to create a climate that would lead to jobs and economic growth. The Harris team has made-and will continue to make-responsible choices for a better tomorrow.

Recently, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty brought down Ontario's third balanced budget in a row, and outlined the responsible choices the Harris team is making to support strong economic growth, fiscal responsibility and accountability. The budget builds on our 21-step action plan for the 21st century announced in last month's Throne speech.

Minister Flaherty's budget was also shaped by listening to Ontario families, businesses and communities, who told us that they want to preserve and build on our successes. They understand that a strong economy is the foundation for everything else that we want to achieve. Ontario's economy continues to grow, and is expected to grow by 2.3% this year, and a further 3.6% next year.

Paying down the provincial debt is a responsible choice. Last year we paid down Ontario's accumulated debt-half of which was rung up by the Liberals and NDP between 1985 and 1995-by an unprecedented $3 billion. Paying down debt not only helps secure our future. It delivers real benefits today by reducing the interest we have to pay on that debt every year. This year we expect to pay $90 million less on debt interest: that's $90 million we can spend on things like health care, education and highways.

We will keep our promise and continue to cut personal income taxes to create jobs. Budget 2001 proposes to remove another 75,000 people from Ontario's tax rolls entirely, on top of the 660,000 who have already stopped paying Ontario income tax since 1995. The budget also proposes to begin cutting the personal income surtax for middle-income earners. Allowing people to spend their hard-earned dollars as they see fit benefits all of us. Since we started cutting taxes, over 822,000 jobs have been created, while tax revenues have increased by more than $15 billion.

Taxpayers deserve to know that every dollar they turn over to government is spent responsibly and for its intended purpose. Individuals and organizations in what's called the broader public sector spend over 80 cents of every Ontario tax dollar: schools, universities, hospitals, municipalities. In the budget the finance minister introduced a new Public Sector Accountability Act. It would require all major organizations receiving public money to balance their budgets every year. If passed by the Legislature, the act would also require public-sector organizations to publish plans to show what their objectives are, and track their progress against those plans.

This year health spending will go up by $1.2 billion. We have exceeded our Blueprint commitment, but comparable increases into the future are simply not sustainable. We need an honest and open dialogue with people about the future of health care. We cannot wait 18 months for the Romanow commission to report. We will be engaging in our own dialogue about the future of health care. We will ask doctors, nurses, patients and administrators to help us identify the best ways to deliver quality health care.

Since 1995, the education budget has gone from $12.9 billion to $14 billion. This year it will increase again, by $360 million. We will continue to work to ensure quality and accountability in our education system, through measures such as standardized testing in all grades, teacher testing and school choice.

The budget proposes an Equity Education Tax Credit for parents who choose to educate their children at independent schools. We believe that this is a matter of fairness. So does Terry Ross, a teacher and spokesperson for Educators for Choice: "That to me is fair. I think these people pay taxes the same as I do for my children, and if they are dissatisfied with, or simply prefer to be in another education system, they should get a tax break for it as well, because they have to pay above and beyond to go to it." With this new measure Ontario would join other provinces in supporting educational choice and equity.

The 2001 budget is about more choices for individuals and families. We believe that our choices have been responsible, our commitment has been strong, and-as a result-our successes have been real. I believe that our budget, our 21-step action plan, and our continuing commitment to the people of Ontario, will guide us to even greater success in the future.



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