Farmers and agricultural workers should see good news in this week’s Ontario budget according to MPP Mike Harris.
The representative for Kitchener-Conestoga said he expects the budget being released March 24 to feature additional positive items from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs on top of previously announced Covid relief efforts.
“There’s definitely going to be some good stuff in regards to food, agriculture and rural affairs,” he said. “We’ve already seen some relief for farmers which has been very well received and I personally expect some more good news to come in the budget.”
The new provincial budget comes just four months after a budget focused on Covid-19 was released Nov. 5. Harris says the Spring financial blueprint will build on government efforts to bring relief to those affected by the pandemic.
“We’re still planning on sparing no expense when it comes to fighting this virus, but it’s going to start looking at recovery,” he said.
In a release, the government said when Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board Peter Bethlenfalvy delivers the budget at Queen’s Park this week it will support vaccination plans, as well as providing additional resources for the health care sector.
“Our focus has got to be protecting health and jobs today,” said Bethlenfalvy. “Even though the light at the end of the tunnel shines brighter with each person that is vaccinated, we are going to take nothing for granted.”
Harris says he hopes the budget will uphold his priorities for the region, including continuing plans to increase GO train service to the area.
“We’ve been advocating for a very long time for better transit. The GO train is still going to be a hot ticket item,” he said.
Harris says additional train service, including previously announced two-way, all-day GO service to Kitchener, was one of the most requested items during the 2018 campaign. The MPP says he’s looking to add even more new transit ideas to the government’s list of priorities.
“Rural communities are looking for an additional GO train station outside of the city’s downtown core,” he said.
Transit isn’t the only infrastructure Harris is hoping to add to in the coming year — the region’s broadband internet access is top of mind for the MPP.
“That’s probably one of the top issues that are coming into my office right now. I’m hoping we’ll hear more of what that roadmap is going to look like in the budget,” he said. “Rural broadband is a huge thing, especially when we talk about recovery from Covid-19. For businesses in rural areas, whether that’s a small business working from home or a large scale farm, this is a game changer.”
Harris says he hears frequently from constituents in the townships who are working from home and sending their children to virtual school using what is essentially dial-up internet.
“I can tell you from first-hand experience, I have five kids and they’re all in the public school system and they’re all home and that was very draining on the bandwidth on our house,” he said.
Speaking on the hot housing market in the area, Harris said the government is hoping to help decrease demand by increasing the number of homes available to buyers.
“What we’re really trying to focus on from a provincial standpoint is really increasing the supply of houses across the market and eventually once you start to build up that supply the demand and the prices go down,” he said.
The Ministry of Finance says it consulted with more than 745 people and organizations, taking in more than 850 ideas while deciding what to include in this year’s financial plan.
The government says that the budget will also include a multi-year fiscal accountability plan as part of efforts to maintain transparency.
Specific details of the forthcoming budget are strictly controlled before its release, but will be available on Wednesday afternoon.
Written by Elizabeth Bate