THUNDER BAY – “Today, the Speech from the Throne showcased how far we have come as a province and set out a smart and sustainable plan for the future. It also reaffirmed Ontario’s dedication to the North. As Minister of Northern Development and Mines and MPP for Thunder Bay – Superior North, I’m certain the rebate in electricity rates, increase to childcare spaces and investment in Northern roads, will go a long way for Northern families. The Speech from the Throne demonstrates that our government and our Premier are responsive and deeply committed to the people of the North and aware of the unique set of challenges and opportunities our communities face,” stated Michael Gravelle, MPP Thunder Bay – Superior North, and Minister for Northern Development and Mines.
The Ontario Liberals have issued in the speech from the throne several areas where they say that they will focus efforts.
Energy rebates, transportation spending and free tuition for lower income families, are the primary focus.
Some of the highlights from today’s speech that will benefit local families and businesses include:
Making Energy Affordable:
We have responded to people’s concerns about the cost of energy and we’re introducing measures to address those concerns while maintaining reliability in the system.
Today’s Speech from the Throne announced that Northern, rural and remote customers will receive additional savings of about 20 per cent — about $45 a month or $540 a year.
Additionally, we will provide additional relief on electricity bills by introducing legislation that would rebate the provincial portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax directly on the bills of ratepayers. This eight per cent saving will go into effect on January 1, 2017 and will result in cost reductions of about $130 a year for the average ratepayer. Eligible small businesses will also qualify for the rebate.
And finally, larger businesses will benefit through the expansion of the Industrial Conservation Initiative—participating customers will be able to find cost savings of up to 34 per cent by reducing their peak period consumption.
Building Transportation Infrastructure: Our government has initiated the largest investment in infrastructure in a generation- approximately $160 billion over twelve years. New and upgrading infrastructure is essential to improve our communities and quality of everyday life across the province.
Over the next five years we will build approximately 2,400 kilometres of highway and 200 bridges across Northern Ontario. This will assist Northern Ontarians by connecting families to communities, businesses and recreation.
Our government is also working to unlock the tremendous mineral potential of the region. We will continue to work with First Nations and other partners to move forward with greater access to the Ring of Fire, and remote First Nation communities.
Investing in Health Care: Our government believes everyone in Ontario deserves high-quality public health care and we’re committed to delivering on that goal. Today 94% of Ontarians now have a primary health care provider including family doctors and nurse practitioners. But we also recognize that more work needs to be done.
Over the next five years, Ontario will invest in 38 different major hospital projects including significant renovations and rebuilds at 18 sites. Furthermore, we’re investing in care for our aging population. An additional 30,000 seniors will benefit from a program to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, a program that is already benefitting 170,000 seniors across the province. Additionally our new Indigenous Health Action Plan will ensure that culturally appropriate care is available for indigenous communities. And finally, we’re helping families who are taking care of loved ones by increasing the number of nursing care and hours of personal support to enhance home care for those that need it.
Improving Education: Everyone in Ontario deserves an excellent education that starts even before students enter kindergarten and lasts through post-secondary graduation. That’s why we’re committed to improving what is already one of the best education systems in the world.
Children develop the most in their earliest years. That’s why we’re investing in 100,000 additional licensed child care spaces across Ontario that will allow about 40% of the province’s infants, toddlers and preschoolers to achieve the best start to life.
We’re building and renovating schools and updating the curriculum in Mathematics with a renewed math strategy and opportunities for experiential learning. Furthermore, at the post-secondary level we’re committed to addressing the student debt crisis and will move forward with the Ontario Student Grant program that will make tuition free for low and middle income families.