Thursday, 23 November, 2017

Budget Day in Ontario

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa right delivers the 2017 Ontario budget next to Premier Kathleen Wynne at Queen's Park in Toronto on Thursday Budget Day in Ontario
Ron Matthews | 29 April, 2017, 17:29

The Ontario Liberal government has announced is first balanced budget in nearly a decade, which promises billions of dollars for health care in province.

Ontario's Liberal government says its first balanced budget since the 2008 global recession is aimed at creating a "stronger, healthier" province.

We worked hard to stick to our balanced budget timeline so that our government would have the freedom and flexibility to respond to these kinds of new challenges with actions that make our province fairer. In 2016-17, interest on debt was the province's fourth-largest spending area, with $11.4 billion of interest on approximately $317 billion of debt.

But Finance Minister Charles Sousa said his "socially progressive" budget is not a ploy for votes. The pharmacare program will cover medication for all of the province's four million children, regardless of their family's income.

He has also promised a "booster shot" for health care, specifically funding to deal with the problem of overcrowded hospitals, which forces patients to be placed in hallways and other unconventional spaces.

The budget indicates $1.3 billion of the new funding will be dedicated to reducing wait times over the next three years. Alberta and New Brunswick have also committed to publicly funding Mifegymiso. The debt is projected to be $312 billion this year, or roughly $22 thousand for every Ontarian and that debt is expected to grow to $336 billion by 2020.

The province also removed the $30 fee for the Drive Clean Emission Test, the mandatory vehicle emissions inspections and maintenance program, which tests more than two million vehicles a year.

In addition to expanded Kindergarten-to-Grade 12 funding, the new Ontario Student Assistance Program offers free tuition for more than 210,000 students in postsecondary education starting this fall. The Liberals know how much of a fight they're in for next year, and they're happy to use the power of government to carve up their enemies, or get their enemies to carve up each other. "After three years of promises the Wynne government has completely abandoned this critical mining project", Fedeli said.

Grey Bruce Health Services president and CEO Lance Thurston said he is not yet sure how the Ontario budget will impact the local hospital corporation.

The Province is helping 100,000 more children get affordable, quality licensed child care.

Ontario is vowing to create 24,000 new licensed child care spots, 60 per cent of which would be government-subsidized.

But a bullish Sorbara said Thursday's budget "may be a real game-changer" and is "a true milestone for a government that has been under significant pressure for some time".

The province is setting aside about $16 billion in the next decade for new construction as well as renovations and retrofits to make existing schools more energy-efficient.

"My plan builds on the action we have taken and the investments we have made over the past five years", Wynne said.

Since then, 7,200 people have received OHIP-funded fertility treatments, and from now on they'll also be able to claim a medical expense tax credit for the costs of the associated fertility drugs.

These proposed measures include a new non-resident speculation tax of 15 per cent on the price of homes in the Greater Golden Horseshoe purchased by non-Canadian citizens, non-permanent residents and non-Canadian corporations buying properties that contain at least one and not more than six single-family residences.

For anyone hoping balanced books would mean padded paycheques, the 2017 budget is a disappointment.

Not surprisingly, the budget didn't meet the standard expected by the NDP, who called Wynne out of touch and said the document does not undo the damage her government has done to affordability for people or the services they rely on.

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