Today, Conservative leader Patrick Brown made false claims about the 2017 balanced budget.
Contrary to Mr Brown’s false claims, baseline funding at the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines is actually $30-million higher than last year. This means even more investment than before in northern highways, the ONTC, mineral development and more. As always, our government also remains committed to full funding of the $100-million Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation to help create jobs and grow the Northern economy. We also remain committed to the development of the Ring of Fire, including our commitment to invest up to $1 billion in strategic transportation infrastructure in the Ring of Fire.
The change seen in this year’s overall budget is due to the fact that the Ministry undertook $100 million worth of one-time, unanticipated mine site rehabilitation last year to help protect the environment. Given that this additional mine rehabilitation work was completed in 2016, similar funding is not anticipated to be required during this fiscal year. Mr Brown insists he values fiscal discipline, yet it would appear he is advocating continuing to fund a mine clean-up that has already been cleaned up — or else he’s deliberately seeking to misinform voters.
More broadly, funding of some of our most important programs for Northern Ontario saw an increase over last year. We are making travel in general safer and travel for health care more affordable for Northern Ontarians. Northerners will benefit from substantial improvements in their roadways this summer as highway funding in this year’s Budget is almost $650 million, up from $540 million last year. We also continue to expand the Northern Health Travel Program through a further $10 million investment that will help northern patients with the costs associated with receiving care outside their communities. Northern Ontarians will also benefit with an increase in funding of at least 2% for hospitals in every community across Northern Ontario and free access to prescription drugs for everyone 24 years old and younger.
Our balanced, progressive budget invests to support Northern Ontario, including new investments in Sault Ste. Marie. It’s no wonder Mr Brown is resorting to falsehoods rather than sharing facts.