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Published on Monday, May 1, 2017

Chamber miffed balanced budget didn't cut taxes

Oakville Chamber, local officials have different reactions to Ontario budget

Chamber miffed balanced budget didn't cut taxes
Budget pleases mayor, disappoints Chamber
Chamber wanted tax cuts and repayment of provincial debt
By Nathan Howes Oakville Beaver

While local Liberal officials are praising the Province’s first balanced budget since the 2008 global recession, the Oakville Chamber of Commerce doesn’t share the same view.

Last week, the Province unveiled its 2017 budget, A Stronger, Healthier Ontario, which includes significant investments in health care and education, introduces free prescription drug coverage for everyone aged 24 and younger, funds to reduce wait times and improve access to care and will help students and make life more affordable for families, the provincial government claims.

Some of specific items it are the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) and pharma-care program to provide free prescription medication to all children and youths aged 24 and under, regardless of family income.

The Province says this will include access to 4,400 drugs, including medication for cancer treatment and rare diseases.

While the Oakville Chamber is pleased to see the first balanced budget in nine years, it remains concerned there is no “clear path for long-term fiscal prudence,” said president John Sawyer, in a statement emailed to the Oakville Beaver.

“While there is no deficit over the planning period, there is also no plan to reduce the debt. This will place tremendous fiscal burden on future generations and considerable pressure on future economic planning,” said Sawyer.

Chamber members continue to cite rising costs as the most significant barrier to success, Sawyer said.

Eliminating the barrier would require removing the costs of doing business in Ontario, emphasizing strategic infrastructure development and working to foster business competitiveness that allows communities like Oakville to thrive.

For example, the Chamber president charges the Province won’t be following through on its promised scheduled corporate income tax reductions.

“It was estimated that over the next 10 years, Ontario would benefit from increased capital investment of $47 billion, increased annual incomes of $29.4 billion and nearly 600,000 net new jobs that probably won’t happen without those promised tax cuts,” said Sawyer.

Meanwhile, Mayor Rob Burton views the budget differently and is pleased to see the provincial government commit to increased infrastructure funding and finding solutions for Ontario’s housing crisis.

“What is most evident after reviewing this budget is the Province has done a fine job listening. It is truly a good feeling to have a provincial government that is listening to what its municipal leaders have to say about the challenges in their communities,” stated Burton, in a media release.

The budget reinforced a number of the reforms announced previously by the Province to “cool Ontario’s soaring housing market,” Burton said, as dealing with widespread offshore speculation and encouraging a vacant homes tax are priorities for Oakville’s sustained livability.

“I was also pleased to see the Province exploring the option of an additional tax on serviced, approved development land currently left vacant by developers,” said Burton.

“Recent changes to the structure of the gas tax will also go a long way in helping Oakville provide high-quality public transit to our residents.”

Overall, the budget addresses many of the main concerns brought forward by municipalities – the “housing crunch” to supporting flexibility for infrastructure funding, the Oakville mayor said.

“Council will continue to work closely with the Province in supporting livability and sustainability in Oakville and across Halton Region,” said Burton.

The budget also includes the previously-announced Fair Hydro Plan to lower electricity bills by 25 per cent, a $7-billion “booster shot” to the health-care system to reduce wait times and enhance primary care, an Ontario Seniors’ Public Transit Tax Credit, increasing the Seniors Community Grant Program with an additional $11 million over three years and increasing the low-income threshold for drug coverage, 80 per cent of students with an annual family income below $90,000 will receive grants that equal or exceed the average cost of tuition and increase in the minimum salary requirement from $25,000 to $35,000 for recent graduates before beginning to repay provincial portion of OSAP loans.

“Through investments in important initiatives such as free prescriptions for children and youth, free tuition for students, lower hydro prices, investments in health care and child care, and more services for seniors, we’re making life much more affordable for families in Oakville,” stated Oakville MPP and Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn, in his office’s media release.

The budget will also offer continuing support for the Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF), which has financed 110 companies, including NVT Phybridge, an Oakville-based provider of Internet protocol (IP)-enabling networking hardware.

“This budget is a demonstration of our government’s commitment to the well-being and success of Ontario families,” said Halton MPP Indira Naidoo-Harris, in her office’s media release.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

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