Ontario claims partial victory in federal budget
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is claiming a partial victory for the province in the new federal budget, saying Ottawa is working to level the fiscal fairness playing field.
"For the first time in a long, long time, Ontarians are going to receive the same amount of money for their education and social services as Canadians living in the rest of Canada," McGuinty told reporters on Tuesday.
"That too is a significant victory in terms of our fight for fairness."
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced $3.2 billion to provinces for social programs, which means more money for health care, post-secondary education, affordable housing and infrastructure.
The Ontario government, which recently received a promise from Prime Minister Stephen Harper for $500 million to help phase out coal-fired power plants, was pleased to receive more cash and a more balanced revenue-sharing agreement.
Ontario's federal transfers jumped by $1.1 billion, from $11.65 billion in 2006-07 to $12.76 billion in 2007-08. Next fiscal year, transfers from Ottawa will increase by another $1.23 billion.
The budget also calls for Ontario to receive $100 million for daycare spaces, and another $300 million for post-secondary education in 2008-09.
Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara also congratulated Flaherty shortly after the budget was unveiled on Monday, especially for the working income tax benefit for low-income families.
"I think that's a progressive move. I think that will help those at the lower end of the income ladder and I think he's taken a good step," Sorbara said.
But Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman said the new funds won't be enough to bring the province's health care system to the desired level.
Sorbara estimates the province is short-changed $900 million a year in federal health transfers.
"That's a substantial amount of money," Smitherman told reporters.
Since Ottawa doles out more money to other provinces for health care than it gives Ontario, McGuinty says he will be continuing his fight for more transfer funds.
New Democrat Michael Prue said the premier shouldn't be so quick to take credit for the new money coming to Ontario.
"If Quebec can get .... twice, three times as much as Ontario is going to be getting out of this, it's obvious what this is all about, this is the Conservatives in Ottawa buying votes in Quebec," Prue said.
Ontario also received some money earlier this month from Harper for transit improvements in the Greater Toronto Area.
Toronto Mayor David Miller was upset with Monday's budget, as he had hoped for sustainable funding for the city's ambitious transit plans and a one cent cut of the GST.
Miller was also hoping to see the federal government begin a national transit strategy.
The mayor will be watching closely when the Ontario government releases its budget on Thursday.
With a report from CTV's Paul Bliss