As you know, the government did not hold pre-budget hearings as is normally the case, even though it was planning an extremely harsh budget that will result in major health care cuts.
These hearings usually happen in January and are held across the province before the Ontario Budget is finalized and introduced in legislation. They are the public’s opportunity to give input. But the government did not hold them this year.
The hearings are held by the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs which is comprised of MPPs from all the political parties. Because this is a minority government, the government does not necessarily have a majority on the committees — indeed, the Finance & Economic Affairs Committee has 4 Liberals (including the chair), 3 Conservatives and 2 NDP MPPs.
The list of committee members is here: http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/committee-proceedings/committees_detail_members.do?locale=en&detailPage=members&ID=144
The committees have power to pass amendments to Bills (legislation). Then the amended Bill goes to the Legislature for final reading and passage. So committees are important, particularly in a minority government.
Now, the Budget Bill (Bill 55) is currently in Second Reading in the Ontario Legislature. In a week or two, when Second Reading is complete, it will be referred to the Finance Committee for hearings. NDP Finance Critic, Michael Prue is pushing for full hearings, particularly since there were no regular pre-budget hearings this year. The Committee has not yet determined how many hearings and where they will be.
If you would like to make a deputation to the Finance Committee on the provincial budget, please call or email the Clerk’s office and let her know that you would like to be added to the list for standing. She will need your name, organization (if applicable), address, phone and email. You need to tell her it is regarding Bill 55 — the Budget Bill. Please do this soon.