5 Potential Budget Items That Could Affect Windsor-Essex
Monday, June 23, 2014
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has promised to implement her plan and reintroduce her budget when the legislature resumes on July 2.
Wynne and the Liberals won a majority government June 12.
It was the opposition's rejection of her party's 2014 budget that triggered the election. However, she promised to re-introduce the same progressive budget upon re-election.
During her campaign, she made other promises along the way.
Here are five potential items that could appear in the budget and affect Windsor-Essex:
The Liberals call Ontario “a top sub-national NAFTA jurisdiction in vehicle assembly.”
According to the government, the auto sector accounted for 97,000 direct jobs in 2013.
In the budget introduced in May, the province planned to create a new 10‐year, $2.5-billion Jobs and Prosperity Fund that the Liberals claim will improve Ontario’s ability to attract "significant business investments and support the province’s future economic growth."
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The new fund intends to help secure business investments "that focus on job‐creating innovation, productivity and going global, as recommended by the Jobs and Prosperity Council, and will invest in Ontario’s key sectors."
Unifor Local 444 president Dino Chiodo, who represents roughly 4,500 hourly employees at Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant, called the budget "a good step in the right direction."
He said such funds are "not a loss, you’re actually building the economy."
"We would always like to see more of an industrial based policy or task force to be able to put industrial policy together that looks after major manufacturing across Ontario," Chiodo said.
In order to help ensure that Ontario becomes a global leader in advanced manufacturing, the province will provide $5 million over 10 years to establish the Trillium Advanced Manufacturing Network to support the growth of the manufacturing sector. The Network will be located at Western University’s Ivey Business School in London.
The Trillium Advanced Manufacturing Network will build a coalition of business, labour and government leaders, and deliver results to improve the success of the sector. It will collect cutting‐edge research from around the world and share best practices throughout the sector.
The Liberals promised in the budget to work with major auto companies "to support assembly facilities that will anchor the automotive cluster in Ontario, including support for Ford Motor Company in Oakville."
Local names that don't appear in the previously defeated budget include Chrysler, the University of Windsor and Auto 21, all of which have a presence in Windsor.
"It doesn’t bother me," Chiodo said.
He's happy, for now, with the $2.5-billion Jobs and Prosperity Fund.
"That’s five times more than the federal government has done to make sure manufacture and industrial policy is something that can be worked toward to make us competitive," Chiodo said.
According to the Liberals, Ontario’s agri-food sector contributes $34 billion to the province’s economy each year and supports more than 740,000 jobs across Ontario.
Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara says the Bonduelle plant in his municipality alone employs up to 700 people during peak production and is worth $40 million annually to the town.
He said Bonduelle, Sun-Brite and Heinz, which will cease production this month in Leamington, is worth nearly $1 billion to Windsor-Essex.
"This is the food basket of not only Ontario, but Canada," McNamara said.
Wynne has challenged the sector to double its annual growth rate and create 120,000 new jobs by 2020.
Ontario will help the sector meet this goal by committing $40 million annually to an agri‐food and agri‐products processing investment category under the Jobs and Prosperity Fund.
The government calls the category a “dedicated food-processing stream” designed to “attract new investments [and] create new jobs.”
"There has to be an investment partnership with the governments," McNamara said. "Now it’s a matter of getting some dollars available for them to continue to not only maintain the business but grow the business."
Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj says this budget doesn't directly affect the merger of WHR and Hotel-Dieu Grace or the proposed construction of the mega-hospital.
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"The realignment had nothing to do with the government of the day," Musyj said of the merger of the two hospitals. "As we move ahead … the ruling government of the day is still the Liberals and they’re the ones who put this in place in the first place and agreed this is the best plan. I don’t see any dramatic change in moving the project forward."
Musyj did say a local governing party MPP “would make things easier” along the way, though.
In the budget, health sector expense is projected to decrease by $72.3 million, primarily due to savings in the Ontario Drug Program as a result of negotiating reduced pricing for six generic drugs; savings in the public health immunization program due to enhanced inventory management of vaccines; lower spending in various programs, such as clinical education; and lower‐than‐projected amortization expense for hospitals due to minor construction delays for major hospital projects.
In Windsor, Musyj said the previous Liberal minority government already approved the $37.5 million used in the planning stages. So, that's not in jeopardy.
But Musyj did say every stage moving forward requires governmental approval from the Ministry of Health. Eventually, that includes the capital spending required to physically build the new facility.
"Chances are, it might not be next budget, but definitely the budget following," Musyj said. "In 2016, the money for this hospital has to be found in that budget."
While it wasn’t in the budget, the Liberals proposed a high-speed rail link between Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo and London immediately after the NDP said it wouldn’t support the budget.
A day later, Wynne said Windsor would be included in the same environmental assessment. During the leaders debate, she mentioned the service would include Windsor – at some point.
“We need to ensure the Windsor region is part of every step of the planning. We need to continually advocate our position,” Windsor councillor Bill Marra said. “This is not strictly advocating for Windsor-Essex. By extending high-speed rail in its initial stages through this region, it provides direct connectedness to the United States. Then you’re talking about a market that includes Detroit to Chicago, you’re talking about 40 or 50 million people.”
During the campaign, the Liberal Transportation Minister Glen Murray said 56 trains a day, or 28 each way, with fares around $40, would eventually run between Toronto and London..
In an exclusive interview with CBC News, Murray said the high-speed rail service can be completed within 10 years, and would cost between $2 to $3 billion, which is part of the $29-billion infrastructure fund announced by the Liberal government in their spring budget.
Ontario Retirement Pension Plan
The Liberals want to create a made-in-Ontario pension called the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) to supplement the Canada Pension Plan.
The Liberals believe the Canada Pension Plan falls short in meeting the retirement needs of many Ontarians, particularly middle-income earners. The Liberals warn that if this isn't fixed, many seniors will face a reduced standard of living in their retirement years.
Workers would kick in 1.9 per cent of their annual income up to $90,000 a year, a contribution employers would match. The money pool these contributions create (about $3.5 billion according to government estimates) will be invested by a board operating "at arm's length" from government.
However, in Windsor, a long-time auto town, many people have pension plans through their employers, such as Chrysler and Ford. Those at the University of Windsor and Caesars Windsor also have pension plans through their workplace.
Meanwhile, the city's unemployment rate is among the highest in Canada.
At least one economist thinks Windsor doesn't need the province's pension plan — for two reasons.
"The pension plan proposal has a clause exempting people already covered by similar private sector pensions, so Windsor will be affected less than most places, since much of the auto industry falls into this camp," Mike Moffatt of Western University told CBC News. "But there are still many businesses that would be affected, including almost all small and medium sized firms.
"There are legitimate concerns that higher payroll taxes will discourage firms from hiring, which is a problem in a city with eight per cent unemployment."