With Sousa expected to unveil his fiscal blueprint Mar. 3 or 10, Progressive Conservatives and the NDP said the budget will be out before the legislature’s finance committee can report on what Ontarians want to see in it.
“It appears you have turned your back,” Conservative MPP Julia Munro told Sousa, saying that shows a “complete lack of respect” for dozens of citizens and lobby groups on issues from delays in getting wine in grocery stores to the privatization of Hydro One and nurse layoffs at hospitals.
“A lot of the work you’ve been doing has already been forwarded,” added Sousa, who said the government is also hearing from Ontarians on a budget submission website and in telephone town hall meetings.
New Democrat MPP Catherine Fife said the committee, which is dominated by Liberals, won’t begin writing its report until Feb. 18, costing out recommendations in a back-and-forth effort with the finance ministry that took five or six weeks last year.
“It would be really, honestly, a slap in the face to citizens who came out to listen to us.”
While there have been criticisms over the years that all governments hold pre-budget hearings and ignore many submissions to do what they want or have promised in election campaigns, hearings remain a valuable barometer, Munro said.
“You can say the government does whatever it likes — and I won’t argue with that — but at the same time they should be getting a broad stroke of impressions.”