Ontario’s newly minted treasurer plans to open talks with the opposition as he tries to craft a budget that will keep the province’s minority government alive.
Liberal Finance Minister Charles Sousa must secure the support of at least one other party to avoid an election this spring.
“I’ll be looking at doing consultations before we put forward a budget so that we incorporate good ideas,” he said Tuesday. “And for me, a good idea is a good idea and I don’t care where it comes from.”
Budget consultations could happen informally, Mr. Sousa sitting down with the opposition’s finance critics to kick ideas around. His predecessor, Dwight Duncan, took this approach last year.
The discussions could also take place in public at the finance committee, where members of the public would be able to make presentations as well.
The NDP has laid out a list of budget requests, ranging from a 15 per cent cut to auto insurance premiums to shortened waiting times for people requiring home care to the elimination of some corporate tax credits.
MPP Gilles Bisson said that, if the Liberals adopt some of these, his party would keep the government alive.
“If the government is prepared to work with these ideas we put out…we are ready to work with this government to find some solutions that give people results,” he told reporters.
The PCs, meanwhile, have named one condition for backing the budget: that the Liberals take a harder line on reining in spending. The Tories have not said exactly how much the Grits must cut to win their support, but said it must be more ambitious than the government’s current plans.
“The concern I have is that the new premier is sounding a lot like the old premier. And if she wants to demonstrate that she’s truly different…bring forward a comprehensive, immediate and serious plan to reduce spending,” PC leader Tim Hudak said.
It is not clear which opposition ideas will ultimately make it into the budget, but Mr. Sousa said he would be fiscally responsible without making drastic cuts to social spending.
“Let’s take the measures necessary so that we can control and eliminate our deficit while at the same time looking at the long term so that we deal compassionately in those things that matter,” he said. “What we want is to afford health care and education and social programs so we’ve got to take the right steps to do just that.”