NDP slams provincial budget ’embarrassment’

New Democratic Party Leader Howard Hampton calls this year’s provincial budget an embarrassment, saying it does not fulfil promises made less than a year ago by the government.

On March 25, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan presented the 2008 provincial budget at Queen’s Park. Duncan outlined a five-point plan to be implemented by the McGuinty government in an effort to strengthen Ontario’s economy for the long term.

“Our plan will focus on infrastructure, innovation, lowering business costs, investing in skills and creating long term partnerships with other governments,” Duncan said in his budget speech.

He stressed that many people living in Ontario do not get to share in the province’s prosperity. The government is confident that these initiatives will help implement positive changes.

“These are short-term initiatives to improve productivity in the long-run,” he said.

However, Hampton criticized the budget, saying it does not focus on key issues affecting Ontarians everyday.

“The budget fails to deliver,” Hampton said. “It does not provide solutions for issues such as manufacturing and poverty. This is where Ontario needs help.”

Hampton drew attention to the fact that the Liberals asked Parliamentary Assistant David Ramsey to provide advice in dealing with issues in the manufacturing sector.

“David Ramsey made eight recommendations,” he said. “Nothing in this budget responds to any of these recommendations.”

Hampton stressed the fact that Ontario is in the midst of a manufacturing jobs crisis, with cities such as Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Oshawa, Windsor and Thunder Bay, being hit the hardest.

“In some cases these places have lost up to 30 per cent of the jobs,” Hampton said. “This accounts to about $900-million in wages taken out of local economies.”
Hampton believes the government does not have a long-term plan to help curb these losses.

“Manufacturing is the heart and soul of cities outside of Toronto,” Hampton said. “The government needs to stop ignoring that fact.”

Meanwhile, the Liberals propose a strategy to help reduce issues stemming from poverty in Ontario. One goal involves doubling investments in the Student Nutrition Program over the next three years.

Yet Hampton does not hesitate to point out areas where the budget falls short when dealing with the poverty crisis.

“Lowest income Ontarians will only receive a dollar per child per week in the Student Nutrition program and just $90 per child per year in dental care,” he said. “There is almost nothing in this budget to address the growing number of people living below the poverty line.”

Both opposition parties agree that the Liberal government should stop making too many single, short-term investments. The NDP Leader stressed that the government needs to spread funding over a longer period of time.

Today is an embarrassment,” Hampton said. “$6.3 billion is being shovelled out the door this year in one time spending.”

Meanwhile, the Liberals remain confident and steadfast in the budget’s mandate.

“We face challenges in the economy, but we have the right plan,” Duncan said. “We will pay down at least $6-million of debt this year.”

Still, opposition critics remain skeptical as they anticipate the fallout from the unveiling of this year’s budget.

Ontarians who were looking for assistance from Dalton McGuinty are going to be sadly disappointed,” Hampton said. “In a time of economic uncertainty, this budget overwhelmingly undelivers.”