Funding for Ring of Fire will be included, Charles Sousa says in Sudbury
But while long on positivity, Charles Sousa was short on specifics, even though many items expected to be in the budget were leaked April 1. Sousa said he was almost glad budget details were “shared” because he's proud of what's in it.
The leak detailed how the province planned to leak its own budget, right down to dates when each item would be released. When asked why the planned leak about funding for road infrastructure into the Ring of Fire wasn't released as scheduled on April 17, Sousa replied that it wasn't a planned announcement exactly, but more of an informal “communications plan.”
“We are advocating with the federal government to provide support for the Ring of Fire,” Sousa said, adding the details will be release May 1.
“Absolutely,” he responded, when asked if the budget will include provincial funding for the $50 billion chromite discovery in northwestern Ontario.
“We need to exploit it, we need to invest in it, and we need to partner with it. We need to make those leadership decisions today – we can't just kick the can down the road and hope some other government will take the steps necessary to do so.”
But Sousa made it clear he's expecting the federal government to provide significant funding, just as they have partnered with other provinces to help them develop oil and gas on the west and east coasts.
“We need the federal government to partner with us in the development of the Ring of Fire.”
With Sousa at the news conference was Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci, who is retiring as soon as an election is called. The minority Liberals don't have the votes on their own to pass the budget, and it's widely expected to be defeated in the Ontario Legislature, sparking a spring election.
Bartolucci praised Sousa as someone who “constantly talks about Northern Ontario.
“At caucus, he is always standing up to advocate for Northern Ontario in a very real and positive way,” he said. “Charles is the consummate politician.”
Sousa said he and the party will miss Bartolucci.
“When he speaks, people do listen,” Sousa said. “But he looks so happy, doesn't he?”
As for the prospects of an election in the coming weeks, the finance minister said there's no reason for opposition parties to defeat his budget. He also denied the document was crafted with an election in mind.
“This is not about the fortunes of any political party – it's about the fortunes of Ontarians,” he said. “The decisions we're making today aren't election-cycle decisions. They have to be long-term for the benefit of the people.”
But Sousa then turned his attention to the opposition Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats, painting them with a familiar brush.
“(Tim) Hudak and the Conservatives just want to take it away, they just want across-the-board cuts,” he said. “The NDP are just as reckless. When it comes to spending, they do so without thought, and turn to taxation to make up the difference. We got to be competitive.
“I'll cut where we need to. But I'm not going to sacrifice programs like health care and education and social programs that Ontarians rely upon.”