Last month in this space, I reported on the 2016-17 provincial budget, which was presented to the Ontario Legislature on February 25th.
I wrote about the massive provincial debt, now grown to $308 billion.
To place this number in context, Ontario’s debt stood at $139 billion in 2003, when the Ontario Liberals took office. Under the McGuinty and Wynne Governments, the debt has more than doubled in 13 years.
Ontario is now carrying the heavy burden of the largest “sub-national” debt in the world. With interest costs of $12 billion a year, servicing the debt is the third largest line-item in the budget after health and education.
As is so often the case, in the weeks following the budget presentation, additional details have come to light that the Government had hoped to downplay.
Under the heading “Sustaining the Ontario Drug Benefit Program” in the Budget Papers, the Government outlined its intention to make seniors pay substantially more for their prescriptions.
As of August 1st, the income threshold for single seniors to qualify for the low-income seniors’ benefit goes from $16,018 to $19,300. For senior couples, the eligibility income threshold goes from $24,175 to $32,300.
Seniors whose incomes are above these arbitrarily-determined thresholds will pay more for medications: in percentage terms, much, much more.
Again commencing this August, the annual deductible under the Ontario Drug Benefit program will be increased from $100 to $170 and the co-payment per prescription will increase from $6.11 to $7.11.
Our Ontario PC Caucus has objected in the strongest possible terms to these increases in the cost of seniors’ prescriptions.
It is unfair and unacceptable to us that seniors will be forced to pay so much more for the medicines they need, when billions of taxpayers’ dollars have been wasted due to inadequate oversight of programs and the misguided priorities of this Government. They throw your money away, and then seniors are expected to pay more, in order to receive less.
Another very troubling fact has emerged in recent weeks. The Government virtually ignored the pre-budget consultations of the Legislature’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. This all-Party committee of MPPs held public hearings in January. The Government showed its complete disregard for the views of every single person who made a presentation, by preparing and presenting the budget before the Committee had even finished its’ report to the House.
And now we learn of the latest controversy, where the Liberal fundraising machine has been shown to have blatantly sold access to the Premier and Ministers to key stakeholders, promising them an inside track on the Government’s decisions.
Then it all comes together, with a pungent smell of scandal that seems to follow this Government wherever it goes.
Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott welcomes your comments. He can be reached at 1-800-265-2366. His website address is www.tedarnottmpp.com.