Ford government’s mini-budget ignores education, cuts small business adrift: critics

By Kevin Misener

There has been mixed reaction to the Ford government’s mini-budget that was unveiled on Thursday. While many welcomed the fall economic statement’s pledges for long-term care and infrastructure, others expressed disappointment in the lack of new money for education or to help businesses devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mini budget invests big into health care and highways, but makes no specific mention of education.

The Elementary Teachers Federation (ETFO) said education spending is actually down $500 million in this plan compared to figures contained in the province’s budget in March.

ETFO president Karen Brown told CityNews it’s disappointing given the pandemic is still being felt in schools.

“It’s an absolute disappointment and it’s an absolute shame and what is shows here is this government’s lack of concern, lack of investment in quality public education,” Brown said.

Brown said the province should be investing in smaller class sizes, more special education teachers, and counsellors to help students adapt to learning during the pandemic.

“Part of a just recovery for Ontario includes the investment in resources, in our counsellors, librarians, investing in smaller class sizes,” she said.

Meanwhile, the province is pushing ahead with the 413 highway through Peel Region and the Bradford Bypass, which critics said cuts through the environmentally sensitive Holland Marsh lands.

Rocco Rossi, head of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, applauded the large infrastructure spending and the eventual economic spin-off, but said the fall economic outlook phases out COVID-19 supports for small businesses who are still struggling after lockdowns.

“What’s missing is a chapter on finishing the job … we have a whole bunch of businesses swimming and we can see shore. We are almost there and you don’t want these people to drown just before they get there,” he said.

Rossi argues the province’s recent “unexpected and un-consulted” announcement to boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour effective Jan. 1, 2022, is another major blow for small businesses barely getting by with only 10-15 per cent of their normal customer base.

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