A grit? A Tory? No, I'm on a budget - Denny Scott editorial
I got into a bit of discussion with some people recently who apparently thought I was a Liberal or NDP supporter. I politely told them I’m not, I’m a journalist and that means, outside of when I mark my own personal voting ballot, I’m impartial.
That doesn’t mean, however, that I can’t weigh in on issues that will impact me, like many of the recent cuts proposed by the provincial government.
Some people would have you believe that these cuts will be made without having an adverse impact on people’s lives, but, if the experts we’ve interviewed for the various stories we’ve written are to be believed (or even if the truth lies somewhere between the government’s statements and those expert opinions) there will be problems.
Take, for example, the proposed cuts to the conservation authorities.
While I won’t sit at my desk, typing this column and claim to be an expert on conservation, I will claim to have watched, year-in, year-out, as the local conservation authorities’ budgets are approved by the councils I cover.
Every year the same remarks are made: the authorities are running on the same level of funding they received “decades ago” (when
I started, it was “just over a decade ago”,
and that makes me feel old). So to have further cuts made to an essential service already running on a shoestring budget will have an impact.
And before anyone thinks I’m some kind of tree-hugging hippy (which we all should be), I’m not talking about the dire environmental impacts, I’m talking about the impact to my family’s budget.
North Huron knows, first-hand, the importance of flood forecasting and flood prevention. Just a couple years ago, the Maitland River burst forth from its banks, damaging homes, flood control structures and reminding us all that Mother Nature is not to be trifled with.
The Conservative government has proposed cutting funding specifically associated with flood prevention, which means, if crucial, and integral flood prevention and protection programs are to be continued by the conservation authorities, that funding, and more, will have to be borne by municipalities, increasing municipal tax rates.
While families may think they are going to see some relief in the form of the new income tax credit for children, the reality is that, to make it happen, the government has cut a fund implemented by the former government designed to make day care more affordable.
The fund, which was implemented alongside the minimum wage increase, was established to prevent skyrocketing childcare costs due to childcare employees receiving an increase in wage due to the new minimum wage.
The end result is that, while we may get a little more back at income tax time, as a family with a child going to day care (and one that will likely continue doing so until she’s old enough to come home by herself), we’re going to pay all year for that childcare “benefit”.
Despite all these cuts, the budget is still increasing nearly $5 billion over the Liberal government’s last budget, coming in at $163.4 billion. So the question is, where are all the savings from these cuts?
Well, if you live in Toronto, you’re in luck: $11.2 billion has been earmarked for Toronto-area transit projects.
That’s right, important province-wide initiatives like flood prevention, tree planting and education are being cut, but hey, Doug Ford (a former Toronto municipal councillor, for those keeping score) is saving Toronto municipal taxpayers money by spending 6.7 per cent of the province’s budget to make their commute easier.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out here that Toronto doesn’t even seem to want the plan, with Mayor John Tory saying he doesn’t believe the province can make transit faster and cheaper and other representatives saying Ford’s plan is derailing years of work on the city’s transit plan.
Meanwhile, in Ontario’s southern rural regions (which are partly responsible for Ford’s majority win), we’ve lost the only transit options we’ve had with bus companies pulling local service.
To be fair, that was a decision made by private companies and it happened while the Liberals were in power, but it doesn’t change the fact that, like voters in Blyth having to deal with Wingham council members forgetting about everything outside of Wingham, our current Premier seems to still be wearing the hat of a Toronto councillor, and doing so by cutting from the rest of the province.
I’m not a tailgater, I’m not interested in buying booze at 9 a.m., I’ve used Toronto transit twice in my entire life and yet these are the priorities that the government representing me has prioritized over social, ecological and infrastructure projects.
So, is my blood blue, red, green or orange? That doesn’t matter. What does matter is that, like many other people in the province, my wallet is going to be emptier as a result of Ford’s priorities.