THUNDER BAY – Politics 2.0 – The Ontario Liberal Government has brought down Budget 2018 in Queen’s Park on Wednesday. Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP and Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Michael Gravelle shares insight into exactly what the budget means for Ontario, and more specifically for Northern Ontario.
“I am pleased with our government’s plan that focuses on building a fairer, better Northern Ontario by supporting everyone with the care and opportunity they need to get ahead,” says Minister Gravelle. “The 2018 Budget includes significant benefits for Northern residents and business. This includes our continued commitment of $1 billion into the Ring of Fire, one of Ontario’s most significant mineral deposits”.
“Furthermore, we are seeing an increase in one of our most important and impactful programs through the NOHFC, which will see an increase of an additional $85 million over the next three years, reaching $150 million by 2020-21,” shares Gravelle. “Our government’s 2018 Budget commitments will ensure Northerners have financial security and affordability in this time of rapid economic change.”
As part of our growing Politics 2.0 Focus, Minister Gravelle was in the Newsroom to offer real insight into how the Liberal government’s plan will impact the lives of people in the north, and in Thunder Bay-Superior North.
Investing in Care
Ontario is helping ease the mounting pressure that individuals and families are facing and giving them every opportunity to care for their loved ones by:
- Introducing the new Seniors’ Healthy Home Program. This recognizes the costs associated with older seniors living at home, where they want to be. It provides a benefit of up to $750 annually for eligible households led by seniors 75 and over to help them live independently and offset the costs of maintaining their homes.
- Introducing a new Ontario Drug and Dental Program, reimbursing 80 percent, up to a maximum of $400 per single person, $600 per couple and $700 for a family of four with two children, of eligible prescription drug and dental expenses each year, for those without workplace health benefits or not covered by OHIP+ or other government programs.
- Providing more affordable quality child care by making preschool childcare free for children aged two-and-a-half until they are eligible for kindergarten. This saves a family with one child $17,000, on average, and builds on the savings families get from full-day kindergarten. Early learning has been demonstrated to improve children’s academic performance.
- Providing better and faster access to mental health and addictions services for hundreds of thousands more children, young people and adults across Ontario — bringing the total funding to more than $17 billion over four years.
- Improving hospitals by providing better access to care, reducing wait times, addressing capacity issues and better meeting the needs of Ontario’s growing and aging population through an additional $822-million investment in 2018–19 — the largest single government investment in hospitals in almost a decade. The province is also investing approximately $19 billion over 10 years to build and renovate hospitals to provide more and faster health care for people. These investments include construction and renovations to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre to accommodate components of a new comprehensive cardiovascular surgery program and allow for innovative models of
- Creating 30,000 new long-term care beds over the next 10 years — adding 5,000 new beds by 2022 — to help people who can no longer live independently and provide peace of mind for people who care for them. These new beds are in addition to the 30,000 existing beds being redeveloped.
- Continued funding for two projects at St. Joseph’s Care Group to benefit Northern Ontario, the first of which is the construction of a new wing for specialized mental health care beds and related programs to consolidate services and incorporate current design standards for mental health care in Thunder Bay. The second project will develop exercise programs in three remote Indigenous communities to support elders in a culturally holistic context, with room for expansion to other communities in the region.
- Building a fair society and enhancing choice and independence by investing $1.8 billion to strengthen services for 47,000 adults with developmental disabilities and reforming the social assistance system to focus on people rather than on rules.
Supporting Economic Development in the North
- Promoting fairness, opportunity, and inclusive growth by investing $85 million over the next three years, increasing Northern Ontario Heritage Fund (NOHFC) funding to $150 million in 2020-21 and introducing new NOHFC programs. The new programs will support socioeconomic infrastructure projects and large-scale transformational investment opportunities that facilitate job creation and retention, productivity and innovation in the North.
- Partnering with Indigenous communities to work towards the sustainable development of the Ring of Fire region through our $1 billion strategic transportation infrastructure development commitment, including our work to construct a year-round access road into the proposed mining development site which would also include connections to Webequie, Martin Falls, and Nibinamik First Nations. This investment is further supported through commitments to $30 million to the Matawa First Nations Management to improve access to distance education, skills training and new business opportunities for five Matawa-member communities, as part of a joint federal-provincial government broadband investment of up to $69.2 million to install approximately 880 kilometres of new fibre optic cable to these communities.
Building Northern Infrastructure
- The Province is investing about $230 billion over 14 years for priority projects such as hospitals, schools, transit, bridges and roads. The next 10 years of investment are expected to support about 140,000 jobs, on average, per
- 2018 Budget allocation a 325-bed multi-purpose correctional centre to replace the existing Thunder Bay Jail and Thunder Bay Correctional
- Adjustments to the railway right-of-way property tax rates as part of our commitment to modernize the property taxation of railway rights-of-way. In addition, the province will also respond to municipalities’ concerns regarding the property tax revenue they receive in respect of high-tonnage rail
- Continuing to widen the highway from two to four lanes between Thunder Bay and Nipigon. This increased capacity will improve the safety and reliability of the Trans- Canada Highway system and reduce traffic delays on Highway 11/17.
- Moving forward with design work for a four-lane divided highway on the Thunder Bay Expressway, with interchanges between Arthur Street and Balsam
- Investing $490 million in capital funding over the next 10 years for the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission to repair and refurbish railway tracks, bridges and
- Expanding bus service in the North will continue to benefit communities including Hearst, Hornepayne, White River, Red Lake, Emo, Rainy River, Fort Frances, Atikokan and Red Rock.
- Helping municipalities, Indigenous communities and other organizations can apply for the five-year, $40 million Community Transportation Grant Program, to improve transportation
- City of Thunder Bay is receiving $8.2 million of combined Ontario-Federal funding to support projects like water main rehabilitation, reducing pressure on local property tax rates.
- Committing to working with Indigenous partners to close socioeconomic gaps and increase participation in the resource sector by advancing resource benefit sharing opportunities, including in the mining and forestry
Creating Opportunity in Ontario
Ontario is helping people adapt to, and thrive in, a changing economy to make sure the province remains the best place to live, work and do business. Actions include:
- Making college and university tuition free for more than 225,000 students of all ages. Free or low tuition is available for students from low- and middle-income families; tuition is free for those earning up to $90,000 and students from families who earn up to $175,000 are also eligible for financial aid. Beginning this past September, close to 3,000 students attending Confederation College or Lakehead University are paying no
Preparing students for good jobs by providing $132 million over three years to develop postsecondary education programs that respond to the changing needs of students and employers — including strengthening partnerships with local employers, offering more flexible and experiential learning, and increasing the number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates by 25 per cent over the next five years, from 40,000 to 50,000 per year.
- Making workplaces fairer for everyone by tackling the gender wage gap and increasing transparency in hiring processes with proposed legislation that would, if passed, require all publicly posted jobs to include a pay rate or salary
- Providing a long-awaited raise for 1.2 million people across Ontario by increasing the minimum wage to $14 per hour on January 1, 2018 and $15 per hour on January 1,
The province has beaten its fiscal targets every year since the recession, and is forecasting a budget surplus in 2017–18. Beginning in 2018–19, Ontario is choosing to make more investments in the care and services that the people of this province rely on. As a result, the province will run modest deficits of less than one per cent of GDP. The Budget outlines a path back to balance by 2024–25, building on the province’s long track record of responsible fiscal management.
Making Life More Affordable
Families are facing mounting pressures — whether at work or on their commute or in their pocketbook — and it’s having a real impact on people’s lives and our ability to care for our loved ones. Ontario is taking steps to make life more affordable and provide more financial security during a time of rapid economic change:
- Making prescriptions completely free for everyone 65 and over through OHIP+, ensuring that no senior citizen ever needs to go without necessary drugs. By eliminating the Ontario Drug Benefit annual deductible and co-pay, this saves the average Ontario senior
$240 per year. This expansion of OHIP+ follows the introduction of free prescriptions for everyone under the age of 25 in the 2017 Ontario Budget.
- Continuing to provide income support, while improving food security, housing stability, physical and mental health, and access to health care, through the Basic Income pilot that was launched in 2017. As of March 2018, there are over 4,000 pilot participants, including comparison group members, across the province, including Thunder Bay.