Sports Ticker

North took hit in budget, says Bisson

Timmins Daily Press

Social services and government ministries serving the North took some of the hardest hits in the Progressive Conservatives budget tabled Thursday, says MPP Gilles Bisson (NDP – Timmins).

The promise to bring back the Ontario Northland will be tough to keep if they haven’t left money in the budget to pay for it, says MPP Gilles Bisson (NDP – Timmins). RON GRECH/THE DAILY PRESS jpg, TD

Social services and government ministries serving the North took some of the hardest hits in the Progressive Conservatives budget tabled Thursday, says MPP Gilles Bisson (NDP – Timmins).

“The government had been announcing for some time that there was going to be constraint in a number of areas, and I don’t think anybody was terribly surprised they went in that direction,” Bisson said during a post-budget press conference held in Timmins Friday. “I think what is pretty surprising, is the degree they have gone in some cases.”

There was a $1-billion cut to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. Ontario’s Ministry of Indigenous Affairs was nearly cut in half from $147 million to $74 million. Northern Development and Mines’s budget was reduced by $215 million while $109 million was cut from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

On the plus side, the Tories have committed to bringing back the Northlander passenger train though Bisson suggested that is going to be a tough promise to keep when the government slashed the ministry’s budget that would be used to pay for it.

“The dollars that are needed to bring the Northlander back come from Northern Development and Mines. And when you cut that budget by the amounts that have been announced yesterday (Thursday), it’s going to be interesting to see how they do that.”

With the City of Timmins severely challenged to cover the cost of completing repairs to Highway 101 (a task formerly covered by “Connecting Link” funding), Bisson he was disappointed there was nothing in the budget that would aid the municipality in this effort. In fact, the city may be further hard-pressed to get funding for this project in the wake of this budget.

“I had a discussion yesterday (Thursday) with the Minister of Transportation (Jeff Yurek) prior to the budget about the Connecting Link funding, because our mayor (George Pirie) is interested in meeting with him and he’s agreed to have that meeting,” said Bisson.

“Unfortunately, he was saying, ‘Listen, we’re probably not going to be doing anything and Connecting Link may be actually one of the things that are affected in this budget.’ So, you can’t tell now because we don’t have the estimate but he did confirm with me the Connecting Link (funding) is not going up at the very least.”

Bisson said this is troubling to Northerners, particularly when they see Premier Doug Ford fully committed to upgrading the transportation system in in the City of Toronto with provincial dollars.

“Toronto is a growing city that has an infrastructure that needs investment, and I fully stand behind any kind of investment we have in making transportation in the City of Toronto work. That’s the goal, and that’s a good thing and we all support that,” said Bisson.

“But there’s life outside of Toronto and that’s the problem you have with this premier. He seems entirely fixated on Toronto and less so on the rest of Ontario, and especially Northern Ontario.

“We have the two most powerful ministers sit in that cabinet — Mr. (Vic) Fedeli, who is the finance minister, Mr. (Greg) Rickford, who is energy, mines and everything else for Northern Ontario — and we get massive cuts in the ministries that affect Northern Ontario.

“I think Premier Ford has to recognize he’s the premier of Ontario, he’s not the mayor of Toronto.”

Bisson said most troubling in the budget was the “billion-dollar cut in the Ministry of Community and Social Services. That is devastating to families who have kids with special needs, children with autism, adults with developmental service needs.

“What does that mean for group homes? What does that mean for agencies like the Canadian Mental Health Association and others?

“It means, to say for sure, there is not going to be any increases to their budget. If you’re taking a billion out, there’s going to have to be some type of constraint … We know that despite what Mr. (Doug) Ford said in the last election — there would be no job losses — I think this is not just a question of job losses, it’s a question that there is going to be losses to services for people who otherwise rely on the province for things.”

Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler issued a statement concerning the Government of Ontario’s cuts to the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs while promising far-reaching investments to support First Nations.

“We are concerned with the funding reduction for the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs and the impact that it will have on the delivery of programs and services to our First Nations,” said Fiddler. “This budget acknowledges several ongoing activities with our First Nations, and we are hopeful the government will maintain those commitments. We look forward to details of the budget’s implementation and learning how all ministries will support the work of this government to fulfill its treaty obligations to NAN First Nations.”

Amidst criticism, there was also some praise about the Ontario government’s budget tabled this week from a number of Northern organizations and institutes including the Timmins Chamber of Commerce.

“The Timmins Chamber of Commerce’s overview finds Budget 2019 reaffirms the government’s commitment to restoring a balance of fiscal sustainability and critical investments in skills and infrastructure will promote long-term economic growth, especially in Northern Ontario,” said said Nancy Mageau, president of the Timmins Chamber. “

“The Timmins Chamber is pleased to see to see numerous suggestions from our Pre-Budget Submission included in the Provincial Budget, and that they are taking reasonable steps to build a stronger, more sustainable Northern Ontario. The proposed investments in broadband infrastructure, skills development, and investment attraction will create real value for many in rural and remote regions across the north.

“Our message to the government in advance of Budget 2019 had been clear: bring down the deficit, focus on competitive taxation, and choose strategic investments that contribute to Ontario’s long-term economic growth,” said Mageau.

There was also some praise expressed by Northern College.

“Northern College and Colleges Ontario are pleased with commitments made by the provincial government to create a one-window digital portal for apprentices in the 2019 Ontario Budget,” Fred Gibbons, Northern College president and chief executive officer, said in a statement issued by the college.

“Ontario’s colleges have been advocating for this change as part of the need for wholesale apprenticeship reform. The benefit apprentices can expect to receive is in improved clarity in how to navigate becoming an apprentice as well as in providing the needed supports to apprentices to increase completion rates.”

Go to Source