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Ont. Throne Speech Promises Not To Cut Too Soon To Eliminate $25B Deficit

Ontario’s Liberal government will not cut too much too soon as it lays out a plan in this month’s provincial budget to eliminate the record $24.7-billion deficit, Lt. Gov. David Onley said Monday as he read the speech from the throne. 

The speech, which opened the legislative session, provides general outlines of the Liberals’ five-year plan to get the province’s economy back on track, with promises to create nearly one million jobs over the next decade.

“Your government knows that if your province wants to maintain strong public services and attract investment, the world needs Ontario to be on a solid financial footing,” read Onley.

“Your government will not put economic growth at risk by cutting too much too soon. Nor will it proceed with spending as if there is no deficit.”

In the speech, the Liberals promise legislation to help the province cash in on the $400-billion a year global demand for clean water technology.

“The Water Opportunities Act would lay the foundation for new Ontario jobs and make our province the North American leader in the development and sale of new technologies and services for water conservation and treatment,” read Onley.

“In the next 20 years, worldwide demand for water is expected to be 40 per cent greater than current supply, a crisis in the making if the world does not act.”

There is also a pledge to rein in health-care costs, which currently eat up 46 cents of every dollar the province spends, a figure the government warns could grow to 70 cents within 12 years if nothing is done.

“Ontario will lead by pursing a path of constant reform to ensure that the health system and all our vital public services are there for our children and grandchildren,” read Onley.

“Your government will review the Public Hospitals Act and introduce legislation to create a hospital system that taps into the expertise of community partners and all health-care professionals.”

That means hospital advisory committees will no longer be made up of just doctors, and will also include nurses and other health-care professionals, said a government spokesman.

The government also promises to create 20,000 new post-secondary spaces this fall – the funding will be announced in the budget – and says it wants to increase the number of foreign students studying in Ontario to about 54,000 from 37,000.

The Liberals aren’t saying how much money they hope to rake in from the international students, who pay much higher tuitions than Canadian students to attend Ontario universities.

The government wants to increase to 70 per cent from 62 the proportion of people who attend Ontario’s universities and colleges. It will also create an Online Institute to link professors to people learning via the Internet.

There’s virtually nothing in the 16-page speech for Ontario’s aboriginal communities, other than a promise to consult with them on new mining exploration.

The last throne speech in 2007 devoted two pages to aboriginal affairs, but since then the Liberals have even gone back on their promise to maintain a stand-alone Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs.