TORONTO — The Ontario governments 2019 budget delivered by Finance Minister Vic Fedeli April 11 confirmed funding for major transit projects in Ottawa and Hamilton, reiterated the massive pledges for Toronto transit Premier Doug Ford had made the day before and promised legislation to create a new skills training regime to replace the Ontario College of Trades.
— a total infrastructure investment of $14.7 billion in fiscal year 2019-2020. The government intends to spend about $144 billion over the next decade, with $66.7 billion for transit and $22.1 billion for highway infrastructure, in the analysis of the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO).
The budget projected growth to slow to 1.4 percent in 2019 from 2.2 percent in 2018, while net debt-to-GDP, a key measure of fiscal health, was estimated at 40.2 percent in 2018-19, the second highest among Canada’s 10 provinces. It is projected to rise to 40.7 percent in 2019-20, before dipping to 38.6 percent in 2023-24.
Video: How Doug Fords Ontario budget could affect all Canadians
— the $28.5-billion plan to build new transit in the Toronto, including the new 15-kilometre Ontario Line, replacing a planned shorter relief line, was highlighted as the cornerstone of transit infrastructure. The Hamilton LRT plan was left intact, with $1 billion towards 14 kilometres of new rail including 17 stops. There is also $1.2 billion pledged for Ottawas Stage 2 LRT project.
— continued support to reduce regulatory barriers that hold up delivery of infrastructure projects as part of its Open for Business program. There were no corporate income tax cuts but there was a promise to implement faster write-offs for investment in machinery and equipment through a $3.8-billion Ontario Job Creation Investment Incentive.
— Ontario Place will be redeveloped, with an expression of interest process to begin in spring 2019 to solicit ideas and designs from potential partners to create a new vision.
— a promise for a new kind of partnership with the private sector for transit-oriented projects such as new and expanded GO stations, along the lines of the Woodbine and Mimico station projects. The budget explained, for example, allowing developers to build above transit stations in exchange for building new transit infrastructure can help create mixed-use communities around stations.
— along with a first pillar principle to adopt programs to eliminate red tape and indicate Ontario is open for business, a second pillar is a skilled workforce, which includes helping employers attract skilled workers, aligning postsecondary funding with labour market outcomes, modernizing the apprenticeship and skilled trades system and reviewing employment and training services.
The Ford government not only reiterated its commitment to expand the sale of beer and wine to corner stores, and allow tailgating at sporting events, but also introduced a number of new initiatives that could turn Ontario into the unofficial party province.
There will be a new governance framework to replace the Ontario College of Trades, apprenticeship and the skilled trades will be promoted as a pathway choice in elementary and high schools, and apprenticeship service delivery will be improved with a new one-window digital portal for apprentices.
HEALTH-CARE SPENDING: The province will hike hospital spending by $384 million, which represents a two per cent increase in 2019-2020. The Ontario Hospitals Association had requested a 3.4 per cent increase to help meet increasing needs. The province will also spend an additional $267 million in home care and community care. The Tories further promise to create 15,000 new long-term care beds and upgrade an additional 15,000 older long-term care beds. The budget also contains a program to provide free dental care for low-income seniors. It will apply to those with annual incomes less than $19,300 or couples who earn less than $32,300.
— more broadly in jobs initiatives, the government will expand the occupations eligible for the Employer Job Offer: In-Demand Skills Stream and will begin a pilot initiative with select communities to explore new approaches to bring skilled immigrants to smaller communities.
Denley: Ford delivers a politically, if not fiscally, balanced budget
— there were several initiatives aimed at northern Ontario, including expanding the Northern Ontario Internship Program, reiteration of a plan to create a Mining Working Group to focus on reducing red tape and attracting major new investments in that sector, a pledge to similarly reduce red tape to enable the launch of Ring of Fire investment, and promises to continue to support the Wataynikaneyap Power and East-West Tie Transmission Project initiatives.
— a Health Capital Investment of $17 billion in capital grants over the next 10 years to modernize and increase capacity at hospitals.
— a pledge of $13 billion in capital grants over a 10-year period to help build new schools in high-growth areas and improve the condition of existing schools.
— a promise to continue to support the refurbishment of the Darlington nuclear plant and supports the continued operation of the Pickering nuclear plant until 2024.
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The task is not made easier by adding new spending, but it’s still refreshing to see a government keeping its election promises. The new tax credit for child care will give families an additional $390 million a year in total support. The best part of it is that this provides help for all types of child care. The previous government’s focus was on expensive, institutional child care that mostly benefited those wealthy enough to afford it or those poor enough to get a subsidy. This is a fairer, more realistic approach.