The Canadian Press
Date: Tuesday Feb. 21, 2012 4:22 PM ET
Ontario isn't waiting to bring down a budget to make decisions about which government services will be cut or reduced, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday.
"We've made thoughtful choices already," McGuinty said about government plans to eliminate the $16-billion deficit.
"Those choices will continue, and we're not going to wait for the budget to make more."
In his first reaction to economist Don Drummond's report on reforming government services, McGuinty said only one idea has been rejected so far: a recommendation to scrap full-day kindergarten, which will cost $1.5 billion a year when fully implemented.
"We are absolutely wed to full-day kindergarten and the plan as originally put forward," McGuinty told the legislature as it resumed after a 10-week break.
"We will find other ways, and we look forward to hearing from the opposition in this regard, to find savings to allow for that."
McGuinty wouldn't rule in or out any of the hundreds of other recommendations from the Drummond report, which warned the province's deficit will double to more than $30 billion in five years if all of its ideas are not implemented.
"I'm not going to get into the other 361 on kind of a one-off basis," McGuinty told reporters.
"As I said directly to Don Drummond, some of these we will adopt, some we will not adopt, others we will adopt with amendments, others we will put out for further study."
McGuinty replied with a flat "no" when asked directly if he would raise taxes to offset some of the ideas from Drummond that get rejected, but then he walked away from the microphone without elaborating.
The Progressive Conservatives noted McGuinty had broken previous pledges not to raise taxes, and said they doubt he can find a way to balance the books without trying for another tax hike.
"You hired the economist, you tasked the economist, you now have 362 recommendations from the economist. For God's sake adopt them or tell us what you are going to do instead," said Opposition finance critic Peter Shurman.
"If you're going to pull $1 billion out here and $2 billion out there, you're going to have to find $3 billion somewhere else."
In the legislature, McGuinty ducked a Tory question asking if the new 30 per cent tuition fee rebates for college and university students, which cost about $450 million a year, were on the chopping block.
The NDP want the Liberals to delay a planned cut in the corporate tax rate from 11.5 to 10 per cent next year, an idea Finance Minister Dwight Duncan called "helpful" Tuesday, suggesting the Liberals will postpone the tax cut to garner NDP support for the budget.
"We've seen the corporate tax rate cut from 14 per cent to 11.5 but we haven't seen the jobs and we haven't seen the investment," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
"What we're saying to the government is, at the very least, don't continue to do the same thing that isn't working, and at least put a pause on the next two decreases that are scheduled."
The premier also dismissed Drummond's criticism that politicians of all stripes failed to talk about Ontario's harsh fiscal reality during last fall's election campaign, saying he wants to look forward, not back.
"We will not make thoughtless, reckless, across-the-board cuts," said McGuinty.
"If we must choose between horse racing and home care, we're going to choose home care."
Last week, the Liberals signalled the Ontario horse racing industry's $345-million annual share of slot machine revenues could be withdrawn by the cash-strapped government, which now refers to the money as a subsidy.
Drummond also recommended the province eliminate the 10 per cent rebate on electricity bills, introduce a means test for seniors' drug coverage, charge more for sewer and water services, start charging parking fees at GO stations, increase class sizes and force teachers to work longer before retiring.