‘Stay-put’ Ontario budget generally good, Scarborough reps say

There may not be any special perks in it specifically for Scarborough but the Ontario budget announced last week is good “in general”, a couple of local councillors agree.

Coun. Michael Thompson (MichaelThompson)

Ward 37 councillor Michael Thompson called the province’s fiscal plan a “stay-put budget”.

“This is an election budget,” he said, hinting at this fall’s scheduled provincial race. “You would find that no one area would benefit from another area.”

Ward 40 councillor Norm Kelly agreed.

“It’s a good budget for the people of Ontario in general,” he said.

Some cuts affecting Toronto were made in the budget, including a $181-million courthouse construction project in Etobicoke, but money already allocated for city transit was spared the axe.

Coun. Norm Kelly (NormKelly)

Mayor Rob Ford has since announced a new transit plan, which includes expansion of the Sheppard subway line and a partially buried Eglinton LRT line, that replaces former mayor David Miller’s Transit City initiative.

“We as a province provide,” said Scarborough Rouge-River MPP Bas Balkissoon. “We have to respect [Ford’s] request. We have to work with the city.”

Though there’s no special or new funding for Scarborough, Thompson said the province’s spending in areas like education and health is laudable.

“Education will always be the key to our success,” he said. “The more opportunity that people have to be educated, … that’s a real benefit to individuals and society as a whole.”

With an aging population, concentration on health services is also important, Thompson added.

“We want to make sure that the hospitals have the proper equipment they need to help people in Ontario,” he said.

According to the budget, the Ontario government plans to improve mental health services and spend $15 million on 90,000 more breast screening exams in the next three years.

The budget also lays out plans to spend $64 million on creating more than 60,000 additional spaces in colleges and universities.

Considering the economy and the deficit the province is running, Kelly said this budget is generous.

“The same people who say ‘Invest’ are the same people who say ‘Don’t tax me’,” he said.

Ontario’s deficit for the last fiscal year, which ended last month, is $16.7 billion, 11 per cent less than the previous year’s shortfall.