Increased funding for municipal infrastructure and mining exploration, along with an allocation for passenger rail were among the components in the provincial budget highlighted by Ontario Mines Minister and Timmins MPP George Pirie on Friday.
Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy tabled a $205-billion provincial budget on Thursday which includes boosts in funding to hospitals, home care and the medical workforce.
However, Pirie said there was a lot in the budget that should please Northeasterners and residents of resource-based communities.
“There’s a lot there for Northern Ontario – and important things like infrastructure and transportation and mining,” Pirie told The Daily Press.
“Right off the bat, they talked about mining; they talked about critical minerals; they talked about the Ring of Fire. So, a real high priority is being given to the North.
“We’ve got the Ontario Junior Exploration Program. We’re investing $6 million more over two years through the 2023 budget in Ontario through this program. That brings up our total investment in exploration to $35 million.”
Pirie said that will lead to more exploration jobs in the North to find critical minerals to secure the supply chains to support the burgeoning electric vehicle industry.
“This ties right back into getting the minerals out of the ground in Northern Ontario to secure the supply chain.”
Pirie said another component from the budget that “excited” him was the increase “by $2 billion annually over five years to help small, rural and Northern communities to construct and repair community infrastructure … The government realizes the challenges we have in the North.”
Pirie said he will “be pushing as hard as I possibly can to ensure” Timmins receives some of that infrastructure funding.
The budget included the $139.5 million announced by the government in December towards the purchase of three new trains for the planned reinstatement of the Northlander passenger rail service.
Pirie said, “It’s a budget that sees us increasing our spending, reducing the deficit and with a path forward that we’re out of deficit in a couple of years.”
In the fiscal year starting next month, Ontario expects to run a $1.3-billion deficit, before eking out a small surplus of $200 million in 2024-25, followed by a $4.4-billion surplus the following fiscal year.
Ontario expects to end this year with about $200 billion in revenue, more than $20 billion higher than it projected at this time last year — thanks to higher-than-expected levels of inflation and economic recovery.
— With files from Postmedia