Spring election more likely following provincial throne speech
Maria Babbage, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, February 19, 2013 10:40AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 19, 2013 6:27PM EST
TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says the throne speech was designed to include ideas that would appeal to both opposition parties.
But the NDP and Progressive Conservatives don't seem to like what they're hearing.
Tory Leader Tim Hudak says his party would vote against the speech and there needs to be a new government to rescue Ontario from its financial problems.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says she will support the throne speech, which means the government will survive for now.
But she is issuing an ultimatum, saying if she doesn't see her list of demands in the spring budget, her party will vote against it.
The Liberals' throne speech laid out their blueprint for the legislative session, promising to pay down Ontario's $12-billion deficit while building a "fair society" that leaves no one behind.
They said they'll keep a close eye on corporate taxes, work with public sector workers on wage talks and give local residents more say in whether they get a wind farm, gas plant or casino.
The speech also promised to work collaboratively with the opposition parties to make the minority parliament work.
The province needs all three parties to work together "in a spirit of renewed co-operation" to get things done, Lt. Gov. David Onley said in reading the speech.
"Your new government sees a great province that brings together disparate elements and bonds them together as one," he said.
"And your government believes that the legislature should work the same way."
There was a promise to restrain spending to one per cent below gross domestic product once the budget is balanced in 2017-18.
They also plan to "evaluate corporate tax compliance," while exploring a tax break by raising the exemption threshold of the Employer Health Tax.
In addition to paying down the deficit, the new government's agenda will also include an emphasis on job creation, the speech said.
They'll work to tackle youth and aboriginal unemployment, while making efforts to give people with disabilities better access to jobs. The government will also contribute $50 million to a new venture capital fund to give small- and medium-sized businesses a leg up.
At the same time, they'll let people on social assistance keep more of their earnings when they work.
As for the Liberals' rocky relationship with labour groups and teachers angry over imposed contracts, the government will "build a sustainable model for wage negotiations" that will respect collective bargaining, the speech stated.
"It will show its respect for teachers, support staff, principals and school boards," Onley read.
Union leaders said there are ongoing talks about bringing back extracurricular activities, but their members are looking for something more concrete.
"I didn't hear anything in particular in the throne speech that gave me any other sense of encouragement or hope," said Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario.
The Liberals said in the speech that they will make transit, roads and bridges a priority, hinting that improving such infrastructure may require politically unpopular levies.
GO Transit is musing about charging commuters for parking at their stations -- something the Liberals promised they wouldn't do last year when they hiked licence and registration fees.
"If we continue to argue about the tools this investment will require, then we are deaf to the symphony of progress that echoes around us," Onley read.
Municipalities must have a "voice in their future" and a say in their regional development, he said.
"So that local populations are involved from the beginning if there is going to be a gas plant or a casino or a wind plant or a quarry in their hometown," Onley read.
Incoming Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne speaks at her first formal press conference in Toronto on Sunday, January 27, 2013. (Nathan Denette / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
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