The Ontario budget dance has begun.
Premier Kathleen Wynne on Monday sent letters to the leaders of the provincial opposition parties, asking them for input on her minority Liberals’ spending plan. If neither of the opposition parties support this spring’s budget, the province will face a snap election.
Shortly after sending the missives, the Premier repeated her familiar refrain that she has no interest in going to the polls and would rather cut a deal with the opposition.
“I intend to govern,” she said during a tour of Dortec, a latch-making company north of Toronto. “I get ideas from all over. I get ideas from people in places like Dortec, I get ideas from people in Tim Hortons, I get ideas from people who are part of the opposition parties.”
But neither of the other parties would immediately agree to join the Premier in her budget two-step.
“She’s gone on far too long,” Tory MPP Doug Holyday said at Queen’s Park. “She should go to the voters. The voters of Ontario deserve to say who the premier of this province is, and I think that they’re going to send her a resounding message.”
In the previous two budgets, the NDP presented the Liberals with a list of demands in exchange for backing the plan. This time, NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson accused the Liberals of not moving fast enough on meeting those demands, which included slashing auto insurance premiums and hiring a budget watch-dog.
“We’re still trying to get some of the stuff that we had from the last budget,” he said in an interview. “It would be a good start for the government to honour the stuff that they’ve done.”
He said the NDP has not yet decided if it will try to negotiate another budget deal with the Liberals this year. So far this year, the left-wing party has not made demands.
“At this point, I think it’s a bit early,” he said. “We’re not going to get into what we will or won’t do as far as the approach to the budget.”
Ms. Wynne’s letters and speech Monday sounded as much like campaign pitches as pleas for conciliation. In the letters, she repeatedly pressed home the bread-and-butter economic pledges – $35-billion in infrastructure spending, job training programs and a new provincial pension plan – that are likely to be at the centre of the next general election.
And in her comments Monday, she attacked the opposition parties as much as she asked for their input.
“I am not confident that the Conservatives, who really seem to want to cut and slash and then just see what happens, that they’re going to be willing to work with us,” she said. “I’m not sure about the NDP because I don’t know what they stand for. They haven’t put forward any positions and they’ve been very vague on anything they might stand for.”
The legislature resumes sitting next week, after a pair of provincial by-elections in Thornhill and Niagara Falls. The government has not yet announced the date it will deliver the budget.