Budget compromise a step forward

Last week, I joined my caucus colleagues in making the decision not to defeat the Liberal government over the 2012 budget.
It was a difficult decision to make, but I firmly believe we made the right decision.
After reviewing the hundreds of responses to my budget survey, dozens of letters, and taking the opportunity to sit down and discuss the issues with hundreds of people across the riding, it was clear the overwhelming majority of people living in the Kenora-Rainy River riding, and across the province, simply did not want another election a mere six months after the last one.
In negotiations with the Liberals, my caucus did gain serious concessions in order to not defeat the government.
This included a two percent tax increase on those earning more than $500,000 annually (money that will be used to pay down the provincial debt), one percent increases to Ontario Works and Ontario Disability programs, but most importantly $20 million to northern and rural health centres to help them attract the health-care professionals they desperately need.
The government also has agreed to examine the creation of our proposed job creation tax credit.
Was the compromise perfect? I would be lying if I said we received everything we wanted, but that is the nature of compromise—you have to give in order to receive.
This budget falls fall short of what I wanted to see and that is why I did not vote in favour of it. Rather, I joined my colleagues in abstaining, allowing it to pass, in principle, while sending a clear message that we are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the document.
The budget compromise does absolutely nothing to compromise our resolve to fight for fairness for families from the HST, our commitment to bring hydro rates under control, our desire to preserve and strengthen tourism in our region, and our demand that the government invest in key infrastructure that will promote mining sector jobs in the “Ring of Fire.”
What happened last week was the budget simply passed second reading and now is referred to committee, where dozens of amendments will be proposed and fought for.
In short, the fight isn’t over—it really is just beginning.
For those concerned about removing the HST off home heating bills, what we had proposed was speeding up the process by including it in the budget. The bill we passed in December still exists and it currently is in committee being discussed.
We remain committed to the principle of tax fairness and continue to push for the bill to be introduced for third and final reading, where it can be passed.
The same goes for saving our tourist information centres. The fight continues and I will not let this issue die.
In the budget vote, we sent the clear message that this government is on probation. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and accomplishing nothing, we listened and came to the table in an effort to work together to come up with something better.