TORONTO - Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says she's encouraged to see her party's budget demands gaining ground with the minority Liberals.
But she won't say whether it's enough to secure her support in Tuesday's crucial vote, which will determine whether the province heads back to the polls.
With just a few days to go, Horwath says more negotiations are needed to make the provincial budget "more fair" for Ontario families.
The Liberals have agreed to deliver on two NDP demands, saying they'll increase support for child care and the Ontario Disability Support Program.
However, the government says it won't raise taxes to pay for the added assistance, meaning the money will be diverted from existing programs or offset by other cost-cutting measures.
Horwath says she is "concerned" about taking funds away from education.
"I'm not the kind of person that's a 'my way or the highway' person but I am very, very concerned and I think Ontarians agree with me," she says.
The Liberals' olive branch came a day after Horwath took one of her key demands off the table — removing the provincial portion of the HST from home heating bills.
The parties have been trying to reach a deal to avoid plunging the province into another election.
At least two opposition members must support the budget in order for it to pass, and the Tories have already vowed to oppose it.
The 2012 Ontario budget freezes pay for doctors, and extends a pay freeze for health care executives. The province will begin means-testing seniors' prescription drugs, paid for under the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan, effectively meaning that the 5 per cent wealthiest seniors covered by the plan will have to pay more into the plan. Seniors with incomes over $100,000 and senior couples with combined incomes above $160,000 will be affected. Increases in health care spending will be capped at 2.1 per cent per year.
The budget freezes pay for teachers. A pay freeze for educational executives, already in place, will be extended. School boards in low-population areas will be amalgamated, and "under-utilized" schools will be shut. Student transportation will be cut by $34 million.
The province will begin means-testing seniors' prescription drugs, paid for under the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan, effectively meaning that the 5 per cent wealthiest seniors covered by the plan will have to pay more into the plan. Seniors with incomes over $100,000 and senior couples with combined incomes above $160,000 will be affected.
Welfare rates will be frozen and planned increases to the Ontario Child Benefit will be delayed.
There are no tax hikes in the 2012 Ontario budget, but it does freeze the corporate tax rate at 11.5 per cent, foregoing planned reductions in the tax rate to 10 per cent. The freeze is expected to save $1.5 billion over three years.
Ontario will cap the 10 per cent hydro bill rebate at 3,000 kilowatt-hours, a limit high enough that most homes won't be affected, but businesses could be. Reducing the tax credit will save $470 million over three years.
On top of the four jails the province already plans to close, the budget adds two more to the closure list -- one in Brantford and one in Chatham. Overtime for jail guards and the Ontario Provincial Police will be reduced.
Ontario plans to reduce spending on business support programs by $250 million by merging a number of different programs.
The province aims to increase revenue by increasing the number of gambling facilities. [Details to come]