TORONTO — Ontario’s finance minister slammed the 2019 federal budget Tuesday, saying it shows the Liberal government is willing to run “endless” deficits as it heads to polls this fall.
Vic Fedeli ramped up his rhetoric about the federal spending package unveiled in Ottawa, calling it a disappointing document that does not address the needs of the province.
His comments are just the latest in a string of clashes between the provincial Progressive Conservatives and federal Liberals before the fall vote.
“This certainly was an election budget … with endless deficits,” he said. “We’re not really sure any of what they’ve promised will ever be realized. Of course, that is very, very disappointing.”
Fedeli said the budget doesn’t adequately address a wide array of issues important to the province, including U.S. steel and aluminium tariffs, provincial transfer payments and the national cannabis supply shortage.
“Our government outlined the top priorities of Ontario families and businesses in a letter to federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau a few weeks ago and we have seen insufficient action,” he said.
Fedeli also took aim at the federal government’s carbon pricing plan, saying it will undermine the Canada Training Benefit announced in the budget to help workers upgrade their skills.
“The very workers that will be training in those programs will have fewer jobs to find in Ontario because of the carbon tax,” he said.
Fedeli is set to table his first budget on April 11 and has indicated the document will outline a path to balance Ontario’s books.
The Tories have said Ontario inherited a deficit from the previous Liberal government that now sits at $13.5 billion.
“We look at the devastation that was caused by the provincial Liberals and we’re seeing a mirror image with the federal Liberals,” Fedeli said. “I know when (federal Conservative Leader) Andrew Scheer wins the fall election, they will inherit the same difficult issues we have inherited here in Ontario.”
The federal government didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
NDP finance critic Sandy Shaw said while she also has concerns about the federal budget, Fedeli’s attacks on the federal Liberals are not helpful.
“Rather than offer his own solutions, he spent time really positioning against the federal government,” she said. “This on-going bickering between the province and the feds is not serving the people of Ontario.”
Liberal finance critic Mitzie Hunter said the federal budget — and its spending commitments on health care and job training — strike a distinct contrast with the provincial government, which he said has spent months making cuts.
“Ford might think he can be Ontario’s bully for the next three years, but at least there’s a federal government Ottawa that has your back,” she said.
Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press