Ontario Finance Minister: No Election Anticipated for this Summer

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Ontario Finance Minister: No Election Anticipated for this Summer

Dwight Duncan says the budget vote will proceed as scheduled tomorrow, but wasn't feeling concilliatory in a fiery statement this afternoon.

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan introducing the 2012 budget to reporters in March.

“The budget bill has emerged from committee relatively intact… We look forward to tomorrow’s vote.”

With those words, provincial Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan brought the recent sabre-rattling about a summer election seemingly to a close. Tomorrow, the legislature votes on the budget, and if the NDP does what it has said it will do and lets the budget pass, Duncan continued, “there will be no election.”

That hardly means tempers are back in check, though—Duncan had many harsh words for the NDP in his statement this afternoon.

Though the Progressive Conservatives were in significant measure responsible for the recent flare-up—opposing elements of the budget that they actually agree with as part of their commitment to oppose the budget overall—Duncan spent relatively little time addressing that party’s role (though he did wonder, in as many words, if they had bothered to read the budget at all).

He had a great deal to say about the NDP, however, none of it complimentary. “The NDP failed to realize that a deal really is a deal,” Duncan said. He maintained that the Liberals and NDP reached an agreement on passage of the budget “in April, and then in May” with the incorporation of NDP-suggested changes to the original Liberal draft, such as a new tax rate for the highest earners in the province. “The time for substantive debate was earlier than the clause-by-clause debate [that took place last week].”

Duncan followed up, more bluntly, with: “it’s hard to trust Ms. Horwath’s word, and it’s hard to take the NDP’s word at face value.”

NDP house leader Gilles Bisson had harsh words for the Liberals in turn, telling reporters that McGuinty acted “a little bit like a bully” and that the tone of Duncan’s statement today wasn’t befitting the government, in addition to misrepresenting the NDP’s position. “Andrea Horwath kept her word,” he repeated several times.

The NDP has maintained that they had been clear from the outset: they would allow the budget to pass, but they would be seeking changes along the way. “We made some compromises, we didn’t get everything we wanted—that’s how you make a minority government work,” Bisson summarized. When asked what this recent war of words meant for the next session of legislature, Bisson said that he thought the parties would be able to work together again after cooling off for the summer. Horwath, he added, wasn’t looking for an excuse to go to the polls immediately: “when it comes to compromises she’s going to do the things that are necessary to make this government work.”

The Liberals had been threatening to ask the lieutenant governor to dissolve provincial parliament and call an election over disputes about changes to the draft budget made at the finance committee over the past week, rather than letting that revised budget come to a vote. That committee—in which the combined NDP and Progressive Conservative members hold a majority—removed several schedules from the budget, taking Liberals off guard. Premier Dalton McGuinty initially said those changes “gutted” the budget; after several heated exchanges, NDP leader Andrea Horwath reduced the number of schedules the NDP sought to remove. Those schedules laid out timelines for implementing a number of changes that worried the NDP, especially ones that would have allowed the provincial government to privatize some services currently performed by the public sector, and ones having to do with labour arbitration.

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