Ontario's minority Liberal government has survived its first budget vote and will avoid a spring election after cooperating with the New Democratic Party. Premier McGuinty and the NDP reached a deal that will allow the original budget to stand while raising income taxes on Ontarians making $500,000 or more, adding $242 million to the child care sector over three years, and increasing welfare and disability benefits by 1 percent.
The additional funding for child care will help many communities. The City of Toronto, for example, had planned to eliminate 2000 subsidized daycare spaces in 2013, but this assistance will help municipalities address funding shortfalls. The increase to welfare and disability benefits is another welcomed measure, even though it does not fully cover the rising cost of living and will not make up for budget cuts to emergency housing and health benefits for people on Ontario Works. UFCW Canada is also encouraged to see that the budget freezes both the corporate tax rate and pay for MPPs and executive administrators, rather than recklessly spending on tax giveaways and perks for public sector CEOs.
Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservatives come away from this budget looking foolish. They blew their chance to influence the budget by quickly pledging to defeat it and refusing to work with the other parties. The Conservatives' narrow political self-interest will likely hurt them in the next election.
The New Democrats and Liberals have shown that budgets can benefit citizens when political parties work together, and ultimately that is what the people of Ontario expect. Although this budget is not nearly as progressive as it should be, it is much fairer than the original document that was tabled by the government. Our hope is that the NDP and Liberals will continue to cooperate to make this minority government work on behalf of all Ontarians.