MPP for Timmins Gilles Bisson commented on the 2019 Ontario Budget on Friday, and he says the numbers are troubling for Northern Ontario.

Some of the highlights Bisson touched on include the huge reductions to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, the Ministry of Natural Resources, and cuts to provincial parks. Bisson says the cuts will mean more than just job losses.

“I think this is not just a question of job losses,” Bisson said, “it’s a question that there’s going to be losses to services for people who otherwise rely on the province for things.”

One of the more troubling aspects of the new budget, according to Bisson, is the $1 million cut to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.

“That is devastating to families who have kids with special needs, children with autism, adults with developmental services needs,” said Bisson. “What does that mean for group homes? What does that mean for agencies like the Canadian Mental Health Association and others? It means, for sure, there’s not going to be any increases to their budgets. If you’re taking a billion out, there’s going to have to be some type of constraint. The government has yet to indicate exactly how they’re going to do that. But a billion dollar cut, I can tell you, is a very significant amount of money for that industry. And it’s concerning.”

Bisson also found that the approach the government is taking to funding colleges and universities to be troubling. Colleges will lose $60 million a year, while universities will lose $200 million. The budget eliminates grant programs for kids to go to school, and students will need to pay their loans as soon as they finish school.

The government is now tying funding for schools to performance indicators. Bisson says this is something the Liberals started. The government now says that next year, 25% of overall funding for colleges and universities will be tied to performance indicators, and that will grow to up to 60% at the end of four years.

“It’s tied on a whole bunch of indicators that sometimes the college has no control over,” said Bisson. “And if you’re a small college in northern Ontario, what does that mean? For example, there’s a campus in Moosonee. The amount of jobs available in Moosonee are pretty limited. Does that mean to say it’s going to be a challenge for Northern College to keep it’s doors open? We don’t know. But going in that direction is quite troubling.”

Another major aspect of the budget Bisson touched on was healthcare. The healthcare sector will see an increase of only 1.5%. Bisson says when the previous Liberal government froze budgets and only increased them by 1% over 6 years, entire departments shut down in hospitals in northern Ontario and across the province.

Bisson says this budget does not bode well for the aging population in Ontario.

“Flat-lining both education and health budgets means to say that there is no capacity to deal with an aging population. There’s no capacity to deal with a growing population, which, Ontario is growing. And it doesn’t deal with the new technology, increase in drug costs, increase in wages and everything else that happens.”

The transportation budget was also a concern for Bisson, who says Timmins has a huge problem already with the Connecting Link, and these cuts will only make it worse.

Highway 101 used to get 90% of its funding from the province, and 10% from the municipality. Bisson says that has completely inverted and now the city is expected to pay for 90% and the province will only cover 10%.

“The City of Timmins having to pay over $100 million to fix Algonquin Blvd. is almost impossible for them to do in a reasonable amount of time. And it puts a huge burden on local tax payers. It means to say, if the city wants to do the job that it needs to do on these highways, our taxes would go up astronomically.”

Bisson says the province is not doing anything in this budget in order to respond to the Connecting Link situation.

“I think that is short-sighted,” he said. “If we can find money for downtown Toronto, which I think is a good thing, […] you can’t forget that there’s life outside of Toronto. There’s life in Timmins and Kirkland Lake and other communities. And if we’re not investing in our transportation strategies, then we’re possibly further and further behind.”

The government has announced that it’s looking at bringing back the Ontario Northland which, Bisson says, would be a good thing.

“That would be a good thing, if that was to happen. But the budget that it uses, where the money comes from, has been cut by about $500 million. So yet to be seen how that’s going to happen.”

The provincial ministries have 12 sessional days to table their estimates for the budget and Bisson says that is when these cuts will find a place in reality for Ontarians.

“That’s where we’re going to be able to see, line by line, exactly what this billion dollars means to Community and Social Services, what does this mean to Transportation.”

In all, Bisson says there isn’t much in the budget to like.

“I wish I could say, “yes, there’s things in here I like,”. […] But in this particular case, we’re going after the very people who can least afford to be going after.”