Ontario Liberals leaking feel-good budget items, Tories allege

Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

, Last Updated: 6:39 AM ET

TORONTO — The Ontario Liberal government has set up a special "budget-leaking team" to release feel-good spending announcements in the lead up to a May 1 budget, the Progressive Conservatives say.

PC Leader Tim Hudak rocked Queen's Park Tuesday when he revealed that "whistleblower" civil servants — upset at being co-opted by the government for the partisan exercise — provided his party with the Liberal plan.

"This looks to me like the Liberal Party that, once again, is more concerned about keeping their government limousines, their cabinet minister titles, and spending whatever it takes to keep your jobs," Hudak said to Premier Kathleen Wynne. "Can you confirm or deny the existence of the hitherto secret budget-leaking team, and can you tell me also that your plan is to make 39 different spending announcements, totalling $5.7 billion, in the next 21 days? That's the information we've had from the whistleblowers."

Wynne did not confirm if the PC documents are real, but said it would be shocking to Ontarians if she didn't have a communications plan for the budget.

"I believe that is absolutely our responsibility to prepare a budget, to work with the officials in finance," she said. "Of course, they are working to prepare that budget."

Finance Minister Charles Sousa has not announced a budget date, although it is expected shortly.

Provincial budgets are traditionally a matter of great secrecy prior to their release. Governments have chosen in the past to strategically "leak" details to media outlets in advance of the budget to improve coverage.

The Liberal pre-budget to-do list, outlined in the PC documents, starts on Friday with an announcement that Wynne will double seniors’ grants.

The government planned to offer $35 million for school nutrition programs on April 7, $85 million for expanded coverage of in-vitro fertilization treatments on April 9 and $300 million for frontline government workers on April 10.

The Liberal plan also called for the government to announce $730 million to address developmental services waiting lists on April 11, according to the Tories.

Wynne would reveal her "funding mechanisms for transit” — she's already ruled out an HST or gas tax hike — on April 14.

Road infrastructure for the northern Ontario Ring of Fire would be up April 17, followed by either an increase to or indexing of the Ontario Child Benefit on April 22.

If the PC documents are correct, then the Liberals would tackle the hated hydro debt retirement charge on April 23, announcing it would end for residential customers effective Jan. 1, 2016.

"Kathleen Wynne and Charles Sousa will make the announcement at a photo-op event, followed by a regional media push," the document says.

There would also be an Industrial Electricity Incentive announcement on April 24 offering a lower price for electricity to manufacturing and industrial companies that expand or build new plants.

The Liberals also plan to bump funding to corporations by $250 million, the PC's documents says.

Sousa would not confirm any of the details.

-- With files from Maryam Shah


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