Windsor-Essex Residents Warned Not To Expect Much In Ont. Budget

The latest Ontario budget from the governing Liberals is a "push for votes" according to AM800 News National Affairs Specialist Evan Soloman.

The 2017 budget will be unveiled this afternoon.

The next election is more than a year away, set for June 2018, but Soloman says lines are being draw in the sand.

The Liberals are expected to roll out a balanced budget for the first time in nine years. "This is a budget document that's as much budget as it is life jacket," says Soloman. "They're going to balance the budget. It doesn't mean that we're not going to have a debt of over $300-billion."

The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario's latest forecast predicts the province's debt will increase to $370-billion by the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

Soloman says the Liberals have been trying to address the weaknesses the opposition parties are likely to attack in the next election. "They fixed hydro, they say, by lowering rates for rural people and everyone by 25%. They're trying to cool off the hot housing market in Toronto where there's votes. They're now experimenting with a guaranteed income in three places: Lindsay, Thunder Bay and Hamilton — and they're going to balance the books."

"The Liberals are laying down their cards and it may be time for the other parties to respond," says Solomon. "This is the election season buy off time. You've also see the NDP come forward with a pharmacare plan — smart political strategy for them. What has [PC Leader] Patrick Brown come forward with? So far nothing. Not in the window."

Windsor-Essex residents are being warned not to expect much in today's budget, especially when it comes to funding for a new acute care hospital.

University of Windsor Political Science Professor Lydia Miljan says "if this is going to be a balanced book budget, if that's really their commitment, it's going to be difficult for them to make that commitment. The other problem is, you have to realize, they don't have a lot of seats in this area, in fact none, so what's the political benefit for them?"

Miljan expects today's budget to focus on good fiscal management, while the one next spring will include "pre-election goodies."

Stay with AM800 News for details and reaction to the Ontario budget once it is released this afternoon.

With files from Peter Langille and Patty Handysides