Building a sustainable future while protecting frontline services
QUEENS PARK – POLITICS – The Ontario Progressive Conservatives say that their budget will result in Ontario balancing the books in five years.
Finance Minister Vic Fedeli delivered his first Budget in the Ontario Legislature today. The Progressive Conservative Government for the People has introduced a comprehensive and sustainable plan that sets out a five-year path to a balanced budget to protect critical public services such as health care and education.
“We are restoring sustainability to government finances in order to protect what matters most,” said Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli. “The previous government was spending about $40 million a day more than it was collecting in revenue. Our plan will make every dollar count so we can continue to invest in the critical programs like health care, education, and other services that the people of Ontario rely upon each and every day while protecting frontline workers.”
There is money in the budget for highway in Kenora.
For the Ring of Fire, the Finance Minister says “The government is working to cut red tape and end the delays that block the development of the Ring of Fire area by working with willing partners to ensure sustainable development in the North.”
There will likely be commentary shortly from Matawa, and NAN on that issue.
The Progressive Conservative budget has drawn out the opposition, who say that the budget falls short of what Ontario needs.
NDP Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath slammed Doug Ford’s first budget for taking things away from children, vulnerable people, students and those living in rural and northern Ontario.
The Ford Conservatives are cutting $1 billion in funding from the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, and are slashing close to three-quarters of a billion dollars in funding for post-secondary education in this fiscal year alone – while Ford is also keeping universities and colleges under his thumb with a threat that as much as 60 per cent of their remaining funding could be withheld.
And Ford is squeezing health care and education spending so it won’t even keep up with inflation.
“We knew there were going to be deep cuts in this budget — Conservatives don’t believe it’s their job to help you and your family,” said Horwath. “What we didn’t expect was the level of irresponsibility and outright cruelty we’re seeing in this budget.
“Instead of investing in the services people count on — like health care and education — Doug Ford is starving them of desperately needed funding. Instead of giving children better schools, Ford is taking their teachers away. And instead of giving students more opportunities, they’re attacking colleges and universities.”
The Ontario Dental Association is not happy. The ODA states it, “Has made it clear that we want to work with the province to make sure Ontarians get the proper dental care they need. The seniors’ dental plan described in today’s provincial budget falls short of that on substance and details.
While the ODA believes there should be a dental program for Ontario’s low-income seniors, the suggestion from the province appears to be that seniors should be forced to leave their current dentist and travel, sometimes long distances, to get treatment at a government-run institution with a dental team they don’t know and who doesn’t know their dental and medical history.
The budget also doesn’t address the ongoing issue of the severe funding gap in existing public dental care programs. The fact is, there are currently four major programs for vulnerable Ontarians (children, families, people with disabilities, and those with complex medical conditions) and none of them are funded properly.
ODA President Dr. David Stevenson says “Ontario’s dentists have been working hard to find a funding solution with the province. Quite frankly, this government knows dentists are reaching the breaking point and we are disappointed at this missed opportunity.”
Several business groups, including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, are very supportive of the budget.
The Convenience Industry Council of Canada (CICC) applauded actions taken by the Ontario government in its maiden budget that will result in red tape reductions, lower business costs and put consumers first across Ontario. The Council also welcomes measures designed to address regulatory burdens in the small business sector and spur growth and investment across the province.
“Small businesses welcome the message in today’s budget: Ontario’s beverage alcohol policies are moving into the 21st century,” said Anne Kothawala, President & CEO of the CICC. “As the organization representing convenience store retailers, distributors and other members of the supply chain, we are excited to help make expanded beverage alcohol sales in our Ontario stores a reality.”
NetNewsLedger will have full coverage of the reaction and the Budget Speech.
Balancing the budget responsibly
The government is ensuring value for money and prioritizing spending that is projected to generate average savings and cost avoidance of about eight cents for every dollar spent over the path to balance. The 2019 Ontario Budget introduces no new taxes and, along with measures announced to date, will allow the government to provide a projected $26 billion in much-needed relief to individuals, families and businesses over six years, and eliminate the deficit.
In the nine short months since taking office, the government has already reduced the deficit by $3.3 billion, going from $15 billion to a projected $11.7 billion for the 2018-19 fiscal year. The government is planning to further reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion in the 2019-20 fiscal year, lowering it to $10.3 billion. The government is projecting a modest surplus in 2023-24.
In addition, the government is announcing a responsible debt burden reduction strategy to responsibly manage Ontario’s more than $343,000,000,000 debt. The proposed Fiscal Sustainability, Transparency and Accountability Act would, if passed, require the government to present a debt burden reduction strategy and report on progress annually.
The government is introducing the Premier and Minister’s Accountability Guarantee, which would require both the Premier and the Minister of Finance to give up 10 percent of their premier and ministerial salaries for failing to make public financial and economic reports by the legislated deadline.
Protecting what matters most
The government is proposing a new Ontario Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit. The CARE tax credit would be one of the most flexible childcare initiatives ever introduced in Ontario. It is a plan that would put parents, not the government, at the centre of the child care decision-making process.
The CARE tax credit would be on top of the existing Child Care Expense Deduction and focus benefits on families with low and moderate incomes. Families could receive up to $6,000 for eligible child care expenses per child under seven, up to $3,750 per child between the ages of seven and 16, and up to $8,250 per child with a severe disability. This new CARE tax credit would provide about 300,000 families with up to 75 percent of their eligible child care expense, and allow families to access a broad range of child care options, including care in centres, homes and camps.
The 2019 Ontario Budget will also build on the government’s ongoing efforts to end hallway health care and put patients first by accelerating the development of 30,000 long-term care beds and delivering on mental health and addictions supports.
In addition, the Budget includes several measures designed to improve the dignity and quality of life of Ontario’s seniors. At least two-thirds of low-income seniors do not have access to dental insurance. This is why the government is investing $90 million in a new dental program for seniors that will start by late summer 2019. This initiative will benefit individual seniors with annual incomes of $19,300 or less and senior couples with combined annual incomes of less than $32,300.
The death of a loved one is a difficult time for families. This is why the government is also proposing to provide tax relief for families when they need it most. Effective January 1, 2020, the Estate Administration Tax would be eliminated for taxable estates with assets of $50,000 or less, and would be reduced by $250 for larger taxable estates.
Putting people first
As part of a renewed people-focused approach to government, the Province is introducing a new blueprint entitled Putting Drivers First to improve Ontario’s broken auto insurance system. Drivers will have more choice when deciding which auto insurance coverage suits their needs and will give them more control over their rates. The government is also introducing a Driver Care Card, which would streamline access to care and make claims processing easier.
The Province is improving choice and convenience for consumers, and opportunities for businesses, as part of its ongoing alcohol modernization process that will treat adults like adults. This is why the government plans to expand the sale of beer and wine to corner stores, big box stores and more grocery stores. The government is moving forward with early wins for the people, such as creating a tailgating permit for eligible sporting events, introducing legislation to let municipalities make rules about alcohol consumption in public spaces, such as parks, and extending hours of alcohol service at licensed establishments, allowing them to start serving alcohol at 9 a.m.
The government is making the single largest capital contribution to new subway builds and extensions in Ontario’s history. It is committing $11.2 billion of the total estimated $28.5 billion cost to support four rapid transit projects in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), significantly over-delivering on the government’s initial commitment to inject an additional $5 billion in capital funds into subway extensions. The four projects include the Yonge North Subway Extension, the Scarborough Subway Extension, the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension, and a new subway, the Ontario Line.
In addition, the government is introducing the largest increase in GO Transit rail service in five years.
Open for business, open for jobs
Actions taken by Ontario’s Government for the People to cancel the cap-and-trade carbon tax, keep the minimum wage at $14 per hour, support the reduction of WSIB premiums and provide Corporate Income Tax relief will save Ontario businesses approximately $5 billion in 2019.
The government is delivering on its commitment to reduce business taxes earlier than promised by providing $3.8 billion in Ontario Corporate Income Tax relief over six years to support business investment through the Ontario Job Creation Investment Incentive. The incentive will help businesses make investments in machinery upgrades and expansions to help them grow and stimulate job creation.
As part of its plan, the Province set a target to reduce red tape barriers to business growth by 25 percent. Once fully implemented, these changes are expected to provide Ontario businesses with over $400 million in ongoing savings on their compliance costs.
With its Open for Jobs agenda, the government will introduce transparency measures that would show the people of Ontario the true costs of the federal government’s job-killing carbon tax. Ontario already leads Canada in greenhouse gas reductions, and the tax threatens manufacturing jobs and small businesses in the province and hurts hard-working families.
- The government is implementing a plan to achieve a balanced budget by 2023–24.
- Ontario’s economy is expected to grow at a steady pace from 2019 to 2024.
- Ontario’s employment is forecast to rise at an average annual pace of 1.1 percent over the same period.