Ontario politicians will return to Queen’s Park for the budget debate
MPPs will be in their seats at Queen’s Park on Monday for the first time since the Ontario Conservatives won another majority government in the June election.
The rare summer session will give the Progressive Conservative government of Doug Ford the opportunity to set out its agenda, in a speech from the throne on Tuesday and the presentation of a budget.
So far, Ford shows no signs of deviating from what he presented in the budget his government tabled in April – a budget that didn’t have a chance to pass due to the election schedule.
But critics say staying the course ignores the deteriorating situations facing the province.
“Now is the time to bring in a new budget to deal with the new realities,” Ontario Interim Opposition and NDP Leader Peter Tabuns said at a press conference in the Assembly. legislative Friday.
Affordability, health care and education are three issues that should dominate the debates. The Ontario NDP and various groups are already calling for immediate action as Ontarians struggle to put food on the table and hospital units are forced to temporarily close due to staff shortages.
“Their honeymoon is over. Sixty percent of the people in the province weren’t thrilled with them on June 2,” Tabuns said.
“And again, with the ER crisis, the cost of living crisis… love is getting thinner and thinner”
Government officials were tight-lipped on Friday about whether adjustments would be made to deal with growing pressures in light of the health care and affordability crisis, instead pointing to the money the government has already committed in the health care sector.
“I can’t imagine how they can continue to dodge the problems of the health care system,” said Henry Jacek, professor emeritus of political science at McMaster University.
“They need to show that they’re going to do something that’s going to work,” he said, but doubts it’s anything big enough to dent the crisis, given how little relief has come. to my attempts so far.
More than a dozen hospital units temporarily closed or reduced service ahead of the August long weekend due to a shortage of hospital staff, many of them in intensive or emergency care.
“There could come a time with the health care system where literally the number of people dying is something that it can’t ignore,” said Laura Stephenson, a political scientist at Western University.
Unions representing health care workers, like CUPE, are calling for the repeal of Bill 124 that capped wages for health care workers, who are leaving the profession in droves with often blamed pay as the reason.
Pam Parks, a licensed practical nurse and president of a CUPE local, says she’s been telling the premier and the health minister how dire the situation is for months, but she feels the government did not listen.
“The workforce they have here is excellent. And they collapse. They can’t take it anymore…they need the government and the employer to realize they’re still here,” she said.
Ford hasn’t hinted that he plans to repeal the bill, but earlier this week he said, “We’re throwing everything we can at the healthcare system.”
The finance ministry spokesperson says the government is already giving nurses a retention bonus of up to $5,000 per person over two years and is investing $230 million this year “to improve existing programs so that hospitals and the health system have the staff they need.” The government is also investing an additional $3.3 billion in the system this fiscal year to “be ready to respond to any crisis.”
Stephenson says the rising cost of living is a major concern for many and Ford has campaigned for his team to be the ones to make things better for Ontarians.
As gas and house prices drop, food prices soar and more Ontarians rely on food banks, she says.
“I think they will try to take steps in that direction,” she said.
Jacek isn’t so sure. With the prices of some items falling, the government could see that this is a shrinking problem, not a growing one that needs to be tackled now, he says.
Tabuns says Ontarians can’t wait for things to calm down.
“Inflation is eating away at their paychecks and companies are using inflation as an excuse to make even more fortunes with us,” he says.
Public education unions are back at the bargaining table with the government this summer.
Ford is likely hoping to avoid attracting a lot of extra flak on this file because a smooth return to school is a priority for parents during negotiations, Jacek says.
Jacek says if he was advising Ford on what to include in the Speech from the Throne, he would say, “You should probably say something positive about what you’re going to do in terms of the relationship with the teachers.
Tone difficult to predict: expert
Only time will tell what the tone of this session will be, but Tuesday’s Speech from the Throne will likely offer some clues about the type of Ford government we’re likely to see.
Jacek says the varied approaches the Ford government has taken so far will make its tone difficult to predict. “Which Doug Ford are we going to see?” The one with the hard nose or Mr Nice Guy?
Stephenson says with an election in four years, Ford could use the longer track to do things a bit outside its wheelhouse as crises demand.