McGuinty to consult on spending
By Anton Vidgen
HARD ON FOR ENGINEERING. Ontario
Premier Dalton McGuinty sports his hard hat and looks
through a lens at a job training facility in London yesterday.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was in London yesterday speaking
about the need for a strong economy based on a well-educated
and skilled workforce, but refused to outline specific plans
or where the funds would come from.
McGuinty said upcoming funding consultations across the province
would allow participants to influence the government’s
funding priorities. “We need your advice, your insight
and your guidance,” he said. “We’re going
to have to make some difficult choices — together.”
The consultations are needed to ensure the government is listening
to the people and, according to McGuinty, critics who consider
them a waste of taxpayers’ money are “elitist” and “cynical.”
But the premier avoided making any definite funding commitments,
saying everything was “on the table,” including
photo radar, highway tolls and other controversial revenue
“It’s hard not to be cynical about the consultation
process, especially after eight years of the previous government,” said
Joel Duff, Ontario chairperson for the Canadian Federation
The province’s $5.6 billion deficit may end up being
even larger, McGuinty said, if the government decides to pick
up an additional $2.2 billion in debt incurred by provincial
institutions, such as school boards and hospitals. When asked
if absorbing the debt would encourage these government agencies
to run deficit budgets, the premier said it would not be professional
or fiscally prudent to do so. “They have a responsibility
to live within the funding envelope,” he said.
“There’s just no more fat to trim out of the public
sector,” Duff said, adding the government should be accountable
for providing sufficient funding.
Also in attendance was London West member of provincial parliament
and Minister of Labour Chris Bentley. “Education has
long been [McGuinty’s] No. 1 priority,” he said.
The premier did not say whether elementary and secondary education
had higher priority than post-secondary, saying it was “important
we see education as a continuum.” He pointed to his government’s
commitment to reducing the high school dropout rate by requiring
students to stay in school until they are 18-years-old.
McGuinty made his comments at a London training facility,
where he donned a hard hat to tour the various construction
Business manager Jim MacKinnon said he was pleased the premier
took time to see the workers learning skills that will enable
them to compete in the economy. He also said he was happy with
the premier’s commitment to training and education. “We
can’t have a strong economy unless we have well-paying