TORONTO – Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives released leaked documents Tuesday they said show the Liberals plan a month-long spending spree before a May 1 budget that will increase spending by nearly $6 billion, but the government refused to confirm details.
The documents talk about a so-called BLT or “Budget Leaking Team” set up by the Liberals to plan dozens of spending announcements over the next month leading up to the presentation of their fiscal plan, said Opposition Leader Tim Hudak.
“It’s not uncommon to have political staff decide what announcement comes when, an announcement or two, but we’re talking about 39 spending announcements totalling $5.7 billion,” said Hudak. “We can’t afford it.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne said there was nothing unusual in a government having a communications plan to roll out its budget programs, and she didn’t deny the Liberals plan to increase spending.
“We will be bringing forward a budget, and we will be bringing forward a budget that will invest in people, it will invest in infrastructure and it will invest in supports for businesses in this province,” Wynne told the legislature.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa also refused to comment on any specifics from the documents that were given to the Tories such as the May 1 budget date or the $5.7 billion spending hike, but he too admitted the government will increase spending.
“The only document that really matters is the document that will be delivered in this house and I will announce that date in the coming weeks,” said Sousa. “We will continue to stay on path to balance … and we’ll continue to make those investments that are necessary for our future.”
The leaked budget documents provided by the Tories also said Sousa would unveil a new deficit figure this Thursday that is expected to be lower than the latest projection of $11.7 billion.
The documents also say the budget will include $2 billion to repair schools, $35 million more for school nutrition programs, $85 million in new spending to fund in vitro fertilization procedures plus $2.5 billion more in corporate grants.
There will also be a $730 million program to shorten wait lists for people needing developmental services along with new grant programs for seniors, according to the budget roll out plan provided by the Tories.
The documents also say the budget will also announce the end of the debt retirement charge on electricity bills for residential customers starting in 2016.
The Tories said several public servants came forward to give them the documents because they were “disgusted” at being asked to do what the Opposition insisted was Liberal Party campaign work ahead of a possible spring election.
“This is drafting the entire civil service to become operatives of the Liberal party,” said Hudak. “That’s an unprecedented abuse, and civil servants don’t like it, it’s not their job, and that’s why we’ve had whistle blowers, multiple people actually give us this document that we’re making public today.”
Sousa said he “had no knowledge of any leaking team,” and accused the Tories of “gutter politics” with their accusations that the Liberals were forcing public servants to do partisan work. He also took a swipe at the Conservatives for introducing their 2002 budget at a Magna auto parts factory before it was introduced in the legislature.
“This is us working together with ministry staff to put forward a very positive budget,” said Sousa. “It is not, however, using the political staff to do a budget at Magna.”
Ontario will be plunged into a general election if the minority government cannot convince the New Democrats to support the budget, which the Tories vow to oppose.
However, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath wasn’t prepared to say Tuesday if she is ready to help defeat the Liberals and will base her decision on what’s in the budget, not what is in leaked documents.
“We’ll make a decision when that opportunity arises when the budget has been tabled in the legislature, but up until then there could be all kinds of speculation and all kinds of leaks,” said Horwath.