The Province of Ontario released it’s “pre-budget” – “Ontario’s Economic and Fiscal Outlook in Brief”. In strengthening Ontario’s infrastructure and systems, the pre-budget details key Government commitments for the coming years. In its big commitment to infrastructure, the government is:
- Introducing the new arms-length, board-governed agency “Ontario Infrastructure Bank” (OIB), which will work to attract public-sector pension plans and other “trusted Canadian institutional investors” to contribute in large infrastructure projects. with proposed initial funding of $3 billion from the government.
- Committing $185 billion over 10 years, ($20.7 billion in 2023–24), toward Ontario’s Plan to Build, a capital plan investment to build highways, roads, transit, hospitals, long-term care homes, schools, child care spaces, broadband and other critical infrastructure. The OIB will invest in sector specific projects to address current infrastructure shortfalls. The commitments per industry/sector are provided below.
The government is also making significant investments in mining and Electric Vehicles specifically, with the goal of “making Ontario a global Electric Vehicle leader”. It boasts to “attracting more than $26 billion over the last three years in transformative automotive and EV battery‐related investments”. Their commitments in manufacturing tax credits help feed these goals.
With a focus on the priorities identified by our Advocacy Committee, here are the points from the pre-budget categorically.
Industry and Business
- In 2023, the government projects approximately $8.0 billion in cost savings and support for Ontario businesses, of which it calculates $3.6 billion would benefit small businesses.
- Investing $22 billion over the next 10 years, including about $15 billion in capital grants, to build more schools and child care spaces as well as the renewal of existing schools. Implementing the Ontario Made Manufacturing Investment Tax Credit to help Ontario’s manufacturers lower their costs, innovate and become more competitive through an estimated $780 million in income tax support over three years.
- Providing an additional $100 million to the Invest Ontario Fund, to enable Invest Ontario, the “government’s investment attraction agency”, to attract companies to the province.
- The 2023 Budget invested $224 million in the new Skills Development Fund Capital Stream to support the building, upgrading and expansion of brick and mortar training centres, including union‐ led training halls.
- $160 million is also invested in the 4th round of funding through the Training Stream, which prioritizes training programs for people who may face barriers to employment, such as those on social assistance
- Ontario is committing $5.4 million through the Skills Development Fund to build three mobile tech classrooms to teach students and young people about skilled trade careers.
- Ontario is expanding the Ontario Bridge Training program with a $3 million investment in 2023–24 to help skilled newcomers start working in their trained fields faster.
- Ontario is also removing Canadian work experience requirements for certain regulated professions to make it easier for newcomers to work in the professions they trained for.
- Increasing the general minimum wage to $16.55 per hour, a 6.8 per cent pay raise to help workers and their families keep up with rising costs.
Housing and Household
- Remove the full eight per cent provincial portion of the Ontario Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) on qualifying projects. Together with federal-level enhancements, this would remove the full 13 per cent HST on qualifying new rental buildings.
- Government is proposing to extend the cuts to the gas tax and fuel tax rates to June 30, 2024. This would save households $260 on average since the cuts were first implemented in July 2022.
- The province is investing $42 million through the Canada‐Ontario Housing Benefit program to support municipalities provide urgent assistance to asylum claimants and at‐risk populations.
- Increasing the Non‐Resident Speculation Tax rate to 25 percent provincewide to deter foreign speculation on the province’s housing market and help make home ownership more attainable for the people of Ontario.
- As part of its on-going commitment, the government is putting $4 billion to provide high‐speed internet access to every community across the province by the end of 2025.
- Investing over $48 billion over 10 years in healthcare infrastructure; including more than 50 hospital projects, adding 3,000 new beds over.
- Ontario commits is increasing college and university enrollment by 2,000 registered nurse, 1,000 registered practical nurse and 150 nurse practitioner seats. 52 new physician assistant training seats were also opened in 2023.
- Maintain prior 2019 commitment to investment $6.4 billion since to build over 30,000 new and upgrade over 28,000 existing long-term care beds by 2028.
- Of the $48 billion slated for healthcare over the next 10 years, part of those funds will support the construction of a new, modern hospital facility on the existing Uxbridge site at the Oak Valley Health – Uxbridge Hospital to replace the current aged building, provide specialized outpatient clinics, and create a community health hub with long‐term care services.
- The government’s 2023 commitment to investment $3.5 million over three years in the Abilities Centre in Whitby will support a wide range of inclusive programming for people in the community.
- Saving an average $550 for over 200,000 low- to moderate-income senior families with eligible medical expenses in 2023, including expenses that support aging at home, through the Ontario Seniors Care at Home Tax Credit.
- The province is expanding provincial eligibility for breast cancer screening to increase access for more than 305,000 additional people. Beginning in fall 2024, people ages 40 to 49 will be able to self-refer for a mammogram through the Ontario Breast Screening Program.
- Investing an additional $425 million over three years for mental health and addictions services as part of “Roadmap to Wellness: A Plan to Build Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions System”. These investments support the “stabilization and expansion of existing mental health and addictions services, including the implementation of innovative solutions, and improved access to mental health and addictions services and programs.”
- Investing $72 million to reduce wait times by offering more surgeries at community surgical and diagnostic centres.
- $28.1 billion over 10 years to support the highway network including the planning and/or construction of new and expanded highways across the province, such as Enabling the expansion of Highway 401 east from Brock Road in Pickering to help relieve gridlock for tens of thousands of drivers per day.
- The government is eliminating double fares for a lot of local transit when using GO Transit services, including Durham Region Transit (DRT). This means Durham Transit riders do not pay an additional fare for DRT, when connecting to and from GO Transit. The government has also increased PRESTO discounts for youth and postsecondary students.
- Ontario continues to move ahead with building the 52 kilometer highway 413, connect Halton, Peel, and York Regions.
- $70.7 billion over 10 years to build new and expanded public transit across the province, including Making investments to expand GO Transit rail service to Bowmanville.
Childcare and Education
- Investing $22 billion over 10 years to build new schools, add child care spaces and modernize school infrastructure. 21 new schools and additions have opened for the 2023–24 school year, creating over 7,000 new student spaces, including six French-language school projects.
- Over 10 years, $5.4 billion is slated to the Postsecondary Education sector to upgrade technology, support critical repairs and improve energy efficiency; including a new public elementary school in Oshawa, which will serve 536 students and have 73 licensed child care spaces.
- The Province is also progressing towards creating 86,000 new affordable child care spaces by 2026. The government has committed to over 23,000 new spaces by the end of 2023, and over 1,500 new licensed child care spaces in schools.
With this budget, the Government is projecting a deficit of $5.6 billion this year, decreasing to $5.3 billion next year, and a modest surplus in 2026.
– Preeti Sangwan, Policy and Advocacy Advisor, Whitby Chamber of Commerce