Tory policies need reality check, while public services need reality cheque

Ontario Alternative Budget
April 2, 2003

TORONTO--The Eves budget, released March 27, 2003 is a profound failure, delivering funding that falls far short of what is required for education and health reinvestment, and completely ignored the deepening crises in housing, social assistance and child care, according to Reality cheque: What Ontario needs (and it's not tax cuts!).

Sticking to the Tory tax cut mantra deepened this province's fiscal problems--problems of the Harris/Eves Governments' own making. The Ontario Alternative Budget 2003 estimates that, before taking into account the cuts in this year's non-budget, Ontario had eliminated nearly $15 billion from this province's fiscal capacity through its indiscriminate tax cuts. This is driving the deterioration in public services and threatening the longer-term economic and social health of this province.

Reality cheque, this year's Ontario Alternative Budget, is designed to respond to the province's needs ignored in the economic statement. Over a two-year period, it calls for new investments in public services of $9.7 billion, along with a further investment of $4.6 billion to sustain the current public services base.

The OAB focuses on five key areas: health care, social assistance, education, housing and child care, providing necessary reinvestment to ensure the stability of these fundamental programs so vital to the growth of Ontario.

The OAB ensures that funding allocated for health care is actually spent on health care. According to Hugh Mackenzie, co-chair of the OAB, "the Government has stolen nearly $1 billion in new Federal health funding, and used it to cover up the losses from the Government's failed Hydro policy."

The OAB will restructure and reinvest in social assistance to guarantee that it provides adequate shelter and the ability to pay for basic needs for every Ontario family in need, putting affordable rental housing in Ontario on track for recovery. The OAB will also address the chronic underfunding of elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education, and implement a $5 per day child care program modeled on the successful Quebec program.

"Based on prudent economic assumptions and allowing for a contingency of $1 billion in each of the two years, our budget will put Ontario back into surplus, after a nearly-$500 million deficit in 2002-3, with a cumulative surplus of just over $1 billion by the end of 2004-5," explains co-chair Armine Yalnizyan.