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Tories send strong signals about what to expect in this week’s budget
Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli will present his first budget on Thursday, but the past few weeks have revealed some significant hints about what the public can expect the financial blueprint to contain.
Public sector salaries: Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy suggested the government aims to slow the growth of public sector salaries, which cost taxpayers about $72 billion a year. “Let me be clear, our public sector workers have earned their generous compensation,” Bethlenfalvy said in a pre-budget speech last Thursday. “But we must be honest about what we can reasonably afford while ensuring the sustainability of government programs and services.”
Health care: According to City News, certain aspects of OHIP coverage are also up for consideration. A team of doctors and government officials are looking at 28 tests and procedures to determine if they are unnecessary, overused, or inappropriate. Procedures under scrutiny include sedation during colonoscopies, some pain medications, and limiting psychotherapy to 24 hours a year.
Transit: Sources have told the Toronto Star that the budget will outline a $30 billion expansion of public transit. Premier Doug Ford alluded to this in comments he made in the legislature late last month. “We’re going to be putting tens of billions of dollars into building infrastructure across this province,” he said.
Despite a hockey injury that’s put his left hand in a cast for the past few weeks, Steve Paikin has been writing another dispatch for TVO.org — one letter at a time. At a round-table conversation last week at the University of Toronto’s Victoria College, Steve spoke with president William Robins about anxiety among liberal arts undergraduates over whether their education has set them up for success.
“What’s interesting is they actually do have the skills to take on the world, but for a number of different reasons they don’t feel that they do,” says Steve. “So a number of liberal arts institutions are asking themselves right now, ‘What do we need to do to make sure people emerge from our institutions with enough confidence and communications skills to either tackle their next phase of post-secondary life or go into the working world?” You can read more about this in his column later this week.
Striking Balance: Clayoquot Sound
This little inlet on the west coast of Vancouver Island became internationally famous for the War in the Woods, a 1993 protest in which environmentalists and First Nations faced off against logging companies and the B.C. government over clearcutting practices. In 2000, UNESCO declared the region a biosphere reserve. This documentary looks to the past to learn how Clayoquot Sound’s environment, cultures, and economies can thrive for hundreds of years to come.”
Without a federal plan for wide-ranging change to the inequalities that Indigenous peoples experience, can the process of reconciliation even begin? Pam Palmater, Eddy Robinson, and Cindy Blackstock say no. Between the over-incarceration of Indigenous peoples, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and boil-water advisories on First Nation reserves, there is much work to be done before, as Palmater puts it, we can “skip forward to the fun reconciliation part of things.”
Looking ahead to the Ontario Liberal leadership race, policy and politics reporter John Michael McGrath suggests that, without vying to win government, the party can focus on other priorities to choose their leader. A private member’s bill brought forth by Ottawa-Orléans MPP Marie-France Lalonde could provide some fodder for candidates: it proposes, among other things, to lower the voting age in Ontario to 16, limit opinion polling during election periods, and allow the use of ranked ballots in byelections as a pilot project.
In the run-up to the municipal election last year, the provincial government cut Toronto city council nearly in half in a bid to save money and improve governance. Candidates and campaigns scrambled to rejig their platforms and priorities. Six months later, how is the new, smaller city council doing? The Agenda asks councillors Shelley Carroll and Stephen Holyday, and the Munk School’s Gabriel Eidelman.
Sporting a corduroy jacket and puffing on a pipe, a mid-50s Farley Mowat speaks with TVO’s Mike McManus about visiting Canada’s North in 1946 as an antidote to his experience overseas during the Second World War. Mowat’s time with an Inuit community inspired his first book, People of the Deer, which proved controversial with the Canadian government of the day for its portrayal of poverty and famine. A fierce environmentalist and champion of endangered species, the award-winning writer experienced much more controversy through his career about the truthfulness of his reflections of the North. Mowat died in 2014 at age 92.