|March 28th, 2012 by Student Vote||Leave Comments »|
Earlier this month, more than 1,300 High School students took part in the first Ontario Student Budget Consultation (OSBC), and many of the respondents will likely be pleased with the provincial budget presented by Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan on Tuesday afternoon.
In the OSBC, students made it clear that they want government spending cut to reduce the provincial deficit; however, a combined 88% did not want any cuts made to the health and education sectors. The government agreed with this sentiment. Significant cuts will be made, and austerity was a major theme: wages will be frozen for over a million government employees, saving the government $17.7 billion over the next three years.
Additionally, the government is still on track to meet its stated goal of a balanced budget by 2017-2018, a timeline that student respondents approved of. Duncan, in his speech said “the McGuinty government’s plan keeps Ontario on track to balance the budget in 2017–18 while protecting education and health care.”
Students were not in favour of tax increases to increase revenue, and neither was the government. When pressed to choose a tax to increase, 65% students chose corporate taxes; the budget does not increase corporate taxes (or taxes of any kind, for that matter), but has instead decided to postpone a scheduled reduction until the budget in balanced. Regardless, the government still forecasts a total revenue increase of $4.4 billion. The 2012-2013 deficit is projected to be $15.3 billion, an improvement from the expected $16 billion.
Students were unsure about many of economist Don Drummond’s recommendations, and in most cases the government took a similar stance. 62% of students opposed increases to class sizes, 53% were in favour of linking the Ontario Drug Benefit to seniors’ income, and 60% did not want the 30% tuition grant cut – in each instance, the government agreed with students.
55% of students surveyed thought the government should take some of Drummond’s advice in conjunction with some of their own ideas. To balance the cost of the tuition grant, the Textbook and Technology grant and the Queen Elizabeth II scholarship will be phased out. Drummond’s plan to scrap the fifth “victory lap” year of high school for students with 32 or more credits was adjusted, and students will be instead be limited to 34 credits.
In terms of healthcare, 61% of students opposed Drummond’s recommendations to limit annual spending increases at 2.5%. However, the government plans to cap spending at 2.1%, an even deeper cut. Contrary to the wishes of the students surveyed, the budget notes that health increases cannot continue unchecked if the deficit is going to be reduced.
Overall, it appears that the students consulted by CIVIX would be in favour of this budget. Significant action has been proposed to tackle the deficit, and health and education have been kept as government priorities. I spoke to Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner at Queen’s Park on Tuesday, and he agreed that Ontario students would find this budget in line with their input from the OSBC.
To read the 2012-2013 Ontario budget, click here.
To see the results from the Ontario Student Budget Consultation, click here.
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