Ontario Budget 2024 is one of missed opportunities

The newly-announced budget Building a Better Ontario, has an uninspiring title to an underwhelming document that misses multiple opportunities.

I’m one who believes there is no monopoly on a good idea so off the top I will mention the good things I see.

The budget says the government will move ahead with auto insurance reforms to create more affordable options, improve access and create a more modern system – I can support this. Will four new helicopters (toys) help our police combat auto theft – no! What about drones?

Boosting nursing student enrolment at universities and colleges is welcome news but I would have liked to see this coupled with a plan to get nurses on the frontlines faster.

Another $4 billion to provide access to high-speed internet across the province by the end of 2025 – yes! We still have communities waiting so this is good news.

I believe the budget needed to demonstrate greater fiscal restraint and a focus on measures to getting key portfolios back on track.

I’ll give you some examples. Ontario’s Finance Minister said the government is ready to build infrastructure like roads and bridges. The Minister also pledged to build more long-term care spaces. This all sounds well and good except there are projects announced previously that still haven’t seen a shovel in the ground and well, we continue to wait for the reconstruction of the Argyle Street Bridge in Caledonia.

Further, the budget speech says health care goes beyond our hospitals, which is why the government will invest an additional $2 billion over three years in home and community care. I am interested to see how these monies will be spent because until the government pays those on the frontline a competitive wage, it’s wasted money. A tree cannot stand if its roots are rotten, which I’ve told this government over and over.

Similarly, more money for addictions and mental health. Each year more and more money for these critical issues and yet poorer results. The same goes for autism supports – more money but no realignment of services that create real results for families.

Sadly, there was no relief for those who are choosing between heating and eating. Sadly, no mention of bringing the developmental services sector into the times by increasing base budgets. Little help for the backbone of many small towns – our small businesses. Nary a mention of rural Ontario or our farmers or agriculture sector – many farmers were looking for a top up of $100 million to the Ontario Risk Management Program.

On the housing front, the Minister said the government is supercharging municipal efforts to get housing built through the Building Faster Fund. For those municipalities reaching at least 80 per cent of their housing targets, a pot of $1.2 billion exists. Why are we as the taxpayer footing a $1.2 billion bill that developers, who put pressures on infrastructure like roads, should be paying. More on this in the next column.

At the conclusion, the document reads: “We are not stepping back from the investments that matter. Nor are we going to increase the burden on you.” This is rich – an inference of doing the taxpayer a favour when it’s your money they have spent and mismanaged.

With respect to the deficit – it will more than triple to $9.8 billion despite promises last year that the books would be balanced by 2025. We are headed full speed toward a debt wall and in the backseat are your kids and maybe your grandkids too.

Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk