This afternoon, the Ontario government unveiled its 2022 budget entitled “Ontario’s Plan to Build.” If some of the budget items look familiar, it’s because they are. Many of the initiatives were announced in the weeks prior to the budget, with the tax initiatives and a few other pieces excepted.
Let’s be honest: this is an election budget, a pseudo-platform for the PCs to run on in the coming weeks. In the document, the PCs clearly carve out the battle lines.
They’re going back to running on their traditional strengths when it comes to growing jobs and the economy through a Critical Minerals Strategy tied to Ring of Fire development and a whopping $12 billion in electric vehicle deals signed over the past few months. They’re swinging for labour votes with the expansion of Ontario’s low-income tax credit, investments in skills training and upping the minimum wage to $15.50 per hour this fall.
Contrast with the opposition is very apparent throughout the document and in the Minister’s speech. In a bid for suburban votes, the PCs have staked their claim on supporting contentious infrastructure projects like Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass, daring the opposition to stop building roads that would help 905 commuters and workers. On another front, the PCs see delivering on their promises for more hospital beds, long-term care beds, and health human resources as more than just building the future of health care; it’s daring the opposition to say anything against efforts to keep the economy open amid a sixth wave of the pandemic.
With all the talk about inflation and cost of living, one important commitment is missing from this fourth-year budget is the middle-class income tax cut promised by PCs on the 2018 campaign trail. Will the other relief measures be enough to placate voters? Will affordability ultimately become the ballot box issue? Ontarians will have to find out for themselves on June 2.
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