The first budget tabled by Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government was expected to turn the new leaf in fiscal responsibility. Highlighting the financial mess left by the previous Liberal government, getting Ontario back to balance was a priority for the PCs. Then there were Ford’s election promises of “putting money back in your pocket” and “keeping Ontario open for business” to fulfill.
Here are the highlights of the budget tabled by finance minister Vic Fedeli at Queen’s Park on Thursday:
• A new Ontario Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit in which families with children under seven would receive up to $6,000, children between 7 and 16 would receive $3,750, and children with a severe disability would receive up to $8,250
• Up to $1 billion over the next 5 years to create up to 30,000 child care spaces in schools, including approximately 10,000 spaces in new schools
• $384 million for hospitals and an additional $267 million for home and community care
• $3.8 billion for mental health, addictions and housing supports over 10 years, beginning with the creation of a mental health and addictions system
• A new dental program for low-income seniors with individual annual incomes of $19,300 or less, or couples with combined annual incomes of less than $32,300 via public health units, community health centres and Aboriginal Health Access Centres across the province
• Creation of 5,000 new long-term care beds over the next five years and upgrading 15,000 older long-term care beds
• $1.4 billion in school renewal in the 2019–20 school year
• Strengthening Ontario’s education curriculum with particular emphasis on math and science, as well as job skills such as trades and coding, and life skills such as financial literacy
• Lowering tuition rates by 10 per cent for students at every publicly funded college and university starting in the 2019–20 school year and freezing tuition fees for the 2020–21 school year
• Making home ownership and renting more affordable by helping to increase the supply of housing that people need through the forthcoming Housing Supply Action Plan
• $3.8 billion in provincial corporate income tax relief over six years through faster write-offs of capital investments under the Ontario Job Creation Investment Incentive
Other budget highlights include changes to the way booze is sold in the province including permitting tailgating at sporting events, allowing bars and restaurants to sell alcohol starting at 9 a.m. and licensed establishments to advertise “happy hour” as well as a push to legalize online gaming.
The $163.4 billion budget has a projected deficit of $11.7 billion. The Progressive Conservatives say the books won’t be balanced by 2023–24. -CINEWS