Voters in Ontario can rest easy this summer as the threat of a second provincial election in nine months has disappeared after the Liberal budget bill passed third reading in the legislature last week.
To many residents of Ontario this was a signal that minority governments are dysfunctional, but for many others it was just the opposite. The budget showed that politicians can provide progressive legislation for the majority when they put their differences and ideologies aside.
Although the budget may not be perfect for working families, the opposition NDP at Queen’s Park was able to force the government into a new wealth tax on incomes over $500,000, and small increases in welfare payouts that will still leave the provinces finances in better shape than they are now.
If we look back to the Liberal-NDP accord during the Liberal minority government in Ontario during the mid 1980s, we will recall legislation passed on pay equity, labour law reform, social housing, the environment and the protection of medicare within a fiscally responsible framework over the life of the accord.
More recently, during the 2004-2006 Paul Martin-led government in Ottawa, NDP Leader Jack Layton was able to broker a deal that saw a reduction in corporate tax cuts and $4.6 billion in additional spending in exchange for NDP support of the budget. A deal that was a benefit to thousands of working Canadians.
Minority governments can work when given the chance. For the citizens of Ontario, let’s hope that the politicians in Queen’s Park will continue to put aside their differences and pass meaningful labour law and other social justice legislation that will benefit all Ontarians during the life of this minority government.