ALLISTON, Ont. - Ontario's Liberals are prepared to make minor changes to the budget, but won't restart negotiations with the New Democrats on its contents, Premier Kathleen Wynne warned Friday as the NDP said they couldn't support the fiscal plan as presented.
The government consulted more than 600,000 people as well as the opposition parties as it prepared the budget, and doesn't see why the NDP needs to consult voters before deciding whether or not to support it and avoid an election, said Wynne.
"From my perspective there may be some tweaks, there may be some small changes, but the reality is that this is not the beginning of a negotiation on this document," she said after speaking to the small urban municipalities conference in Alliston, located about 90 kilometres north of Toronto.
"It's not a moment to begin a conversation about how we can construct a budget. We've done that, and with a lot of input."
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Friday she can't support the budget unless there are changes to make the government more accountable for things like the $585 million spent to cancel gas plants to save Liberal seats in Oakville and Mississauga.
"If we don't think the budget's going to deliver for people, we can't support it," Horwath said.
"The government reflected some of our proposals, but we don't see a true five-day guarantee for home care for example. We don't see a real commitment on a time frame for auto insurance reductions."
The NDP set up a toll-free phone line and a website — yoursayontario.ca — for public input, with the preamble to the first question accusing the Liberals of not taking responsibility "for wasting billions at eHealth, Ornge and the cancelled gas plants."
"We don't see that the government frankly has learned its lesson that the people expect their money to be invested wisely and not wasted," Horwath told reporters.
"This shouldn't be about Ms. Wynne and her attempt to hold on to government."
Wynne said she wants to make the minority government work, but is ready to campaign on the budget if it's defeated, which would trigger a general election.
"I think it's unnecessary, I don't think it's what the people of Ontario want, but I'm not afraid to go to an election," the premier told reporters.
"I'm happy to take that plan to the people of Ontario if that's necessary. I don't think it is. I hope that we can get support and get the budget passed."
The Progressive Conservatives claim the Liberals lost the moral authority to govern after cancelling gas plants to save seats, and say they don't know what more Horwath needs to learn before deciding whether or not to keep propping up the government.
"The NDP has already gotten everything they want (in the budget), so I'm not understanding what another week or 10 days of answering 1-800-Andrea is going to do," said PC finance critic Peter Shurman.
The Tories also lashed out at the Liberals for caving in to the NDP's demands in the budget instead of actually reducing government spending.
"Just like the gas plant scandal, this budget deal with the NDP is another costly Liberal business expense that puts the interests of their party ahead of taxpayers," added Shurman.
"We cannot afford an NDP-Liberal government willing to spend billions of dollars to protect their own political skins."
Horwath also complained the Liberals adopted the weakest idea of the many so-called revenue tools that could be used to fund public transit with their budget proposal to allow drivers without passengers pay a premium to use car pool lanes.
"You're telling people who are trying to do the right thing by car pooling that they might get squeezed out by those who can pay to drive in those lanes," said Horwath.
"The last thing I think Ontarians want is another Lexus lane boondoggle."
- with files from Keith Leslie in Toronto.
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