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Special MPP Update - 2016 Budget

On February 25, 2016, Minister Sousa announced the 2016 provincial budget.  The budget focused on the following areas:

  • Fostering an innovative, dynamic business environment
  • Investing in the low-carbon economy
  • Building tomorrow’s infrastructure
  • Investing in people’s talents and skills
  • Transforming health care
  • Towards a fair society
  • Strenthening retirement security
  • Making life easier for Ontarians
  • Responsible fiscal management

Fostering an innovative, dynamic business environment

More than 600,000 jobs have been created since the recessionary low in June 2009. Ontario is projected to create more than 300,000 jobs by the end of 2019, which would bring the total to more than 900,000 net new jobs over a 10-year period.

The Business Growth Initiative will commit $400 million over the next five years to modernize business regulations, lower business costs and make more Ontario firms into global industry leaders. Commitments include:

 

  • Investing $50 million at the Perimeter Institute, providing funding through 2020–21; its research will help foster the next generation of information technology advancements in areas such as quantum computing.
  • A five-year, $35 million investment in the Advanced Manufacturing Consortium, including three Ontario universities — McMaster, Waterloo and Western; helping traditional manufacturers transform into more innovative, dynamic and productive companies through.
  • Establishing a three-year, $20 million fund that connects colleges and private-sector employers on applied innovation projects that result in breakthrough products and services for sale at home and abroad.
  • Launching the Red Tape Challenge, an online consultation tool designed to identify and eliminate duplication, lessen compliance burdens, shorten response times and make it easier for businesses to interact with the government.
  • Create a Strategic Investments Office to serve as a one-window point of entry to provide improved investment attraction services for major investment projects, licensing and permit coordination, facilitation of workforce training and site-selection supports.

Ontario’s Going Global Export Strategy will invest an initial $30 million over three years to help firms expand their exports and become more productive.

 

Investing in the low-carbon economy

Ontario is supporting growth in the green economy, helping businesses thrive as they lower their carbon footprint and delivering benefits to Ontario households. 

The province raised $750 million with its second issue of Green Bonds in January 2016, which will fund eight environmentally friendly infrastructure projects in communities across Ontario.

The Green Investment Fund’s commitment of $325 million in 2015–16 will create jobs in Ontario’s clean energy industries, spur innovation and lower greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs:

  • $100 million for homeowners to conduct audits and retrofits;
  • $92 million for social housing unit retrofits;
  • $74 million for large industrial emitters to develop technological innovations;
  • $26 million for small and medium-sized businesses and manufacturers to make energy-efficiency investments;
  • $20 million for more public charging stations for electric vehicles; and
  • $13 million for climate change activities in Indigenous communities.

Investing in Low Carbon Economy

Under law, all proceeds from cap-and-trade program to be invested in green projects, fostering competitiveness and innovation – lowering greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions

By 2017-18, proceeds from cap-and-trade will be approx. $1.9billion

Costs to energy consumers:

–      Gasoline: + 4.3 cents/litre

–      Home Heating: + $5/month

–      Electricity: benefit of $2/m for residential customers

Cost Mitigation:

–      Audits and energy efficient retrofits to reduce energy bills ($100M)

–      $14K rebate for electric vehicles + investment in public charging stations

–      End of Debt Retirement Charge

–      Ontario Electricity Support Program

 

Building tomorrow’s infrastructure

 Infrastructure investments stimulate economic growth and create jobs today, while supporting future jobs and helping people in their everyday lives. In the 2016 Budget, the government is investing more than $137 billion over the next 10 years, in public infrastructure such as roads, bridges, public transit, hospitals and schools. This builds on previous commitments, resulting in about $160 billion to public infrastructure investments over 12 years, starting in 2014–15. This is the largest investment in public infrastructure in the province’s history. Planned investments would support more than 110,000 jobs, on average, each year.

The government’s Moving Ontario Forward plan will support public transit, transportation and priority infrastructure, using dedicated funds of $31.5 billion. About $15 billion is available outside the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) and about $16 billion is available within the GTHA. Supported by its asset optimization strategy, the government is building the infrastructure that is needed today and tomorrow.

Inside the GTHA

The province continues to build priority transit projects to increase ridership and reduce travel times.

Through Moving Ontario Forward, the government will invest $13.5billion to implement GO Regional Express Rail (RER), which will quadruple the number of weekly trips to nearly 6,000.

As a first step to phasing in GO RER, Metrolinx is continuing to implement short-term service improvements that will result in new travel options across the seven corridors of the GO rail network. In 2016–17, planned network-wide GO rail service improvements include the addition of up to:

  • Six new trips during the morning/afternoon commutes (i.e., peak trips) on the Milton, Richmond Hill and Stouffville corridors;
  • 10 new trips during midday/evening (i.e., off-peak) on the Kitchener corridor to/from the City of Brampton; and
  • 52 new trips on each weekend day (i.e., a typical Saturday) on the Kitchener corridor to/from the City of Brampton and the Barrie corridor to/from Aurora.

By 2020, rail service on the GO Transit network will increase by about 50 per cent over 2014–15 levels.

In 2016–17, planned GO bus service improvements will increase the number of bus trips by 130 per week.

Other public transit projects:

  • Hurontario LRT — investing $1.4 billion to cover the capital construction costs of this LRT line in Peel Region that will bring approximately 20 kilometres of new, modern, reliable rapid transit to Mississauga and southern Brampton. Construction is expected to start in 2018 and the LRT will be in service in 2022.
  • Hamilton LRT — covering the capital costs of building the LRT, up to $1 billion, offering speedy service from McMaster University through downtown Hamilton to Queenston Traffic Circle. The environmental assessment process is expected to be completed in early 2017, construction will start in 2019, and the LRT will be in service by 2024.
  • Planning and design work for other priority projects included in Metrolinx’s regional transportation plan — The Big Move — to support ongoing transit planning in the region, including Dundas Street Bus Rapid Transit, linking Toronto, Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington; Durham–Scarborough Bus Rapid Transit; Brampton Queen Street Rapid Transit; Toronto Relief Line; and Yonge North subway extension.

The Province is creating a reliable and sustainable transportation system in Ontario. Transit investments and major highway infrastructure projects are underway to improve mobility and connectivity across the province.

Highways

  • Starting a 16.5-kilometre pilot project as the first step in Ontario’s plan to implement high-occupancy toll lanes. The pilot will begin on a section of the Queen Elizabeth Way between Trafalgar Road in Oakville and Guelph Line in Burlington in summer 2016 to help manage congestion and add choice for travellers.
  • Widening Highway 400 from eight to 10 lanes, adding a new high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane in each direction between Major Mackenzie Drive and King Road. This project is scheduled for completion in 2018–19.
  • Helping relieve congestion and support the efficient movement of people and goods in the eastern Greater Toronto Area through the 407 East project. Phase 1, from Brock Road in Pickering to Harmony Road in Oshawa and Highway 412, will opening spring 2016.
  • Widening 12 kilometres of Highway 410 from Highway 401 to Queen Street in Brampton. When completed in 2018, Highway 410 will be widened from six to 10 lanes and will provide HOV lanes to help improve traffic flow and commuter traveller choices.

Supporting Municipal Transportation Systems In addition to Moving Ontario Forward investments, the Province is supporting major projects that are planned and underway, including:

  • In 2015, Ontario provided over $330 million in gas tax funding to 95 municipalities to help expand and improve public transit. Municipalities use the funding to enhance accessibility, purchase additional transit vehicles, add more routes and extend hours of service — making it easier for people to use public transit. The program also helps ease traffic congestion and reduce air pollution.
  • Work is underway for ION, the Region of Waterloo’s 36-kilometre rapid transit project, with about 5.3 kilometres of LRT track in place in Kitchener and Waterloo. The Province will continue to have discussions with the Region on other transit priorities such as a proposed transit hub that could connect ION, Grand River Transit, GO Transit and other intercity bus carriers.
  • Cycling infrastructure is part of the government’s plan to build up Ontario communities. The Province recognizes the importance of helping communities become more sustainable by building off-road bike paths and large-scale recreational trails through the #CycleON initiative. To continue promoting a healthy Ontario, the Province has created a new streamlined process for municipalities to submit proposals for environmental assessment on trails and paths. Reducing carbon footprints is one of the many benefits of investing in cycling infrastructure.

Health Care Infrastructure

Investments in health care infrastructure help patients continue to receive high- quality care in a safe and healthy environment. Ontario plans to provide $12 billion over 10 years in capital grants to hospitals to continue building essential infrastructure. Currently there are about 35 major hospital projects under construction or in various stages of planning across the province.

In addition, the Province is providing new annual funding of $50 million to help hospitals maintain their facilities in good repair. This investment will build on increases announced in the 2014 Budget, to more than triple investments in the Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund from pre-2014 levels.

Child Care and Education

Over 10 years, the Province plans to provide more than $11 billion in capital grants to school boards to help build new schools in areas of high growth, reduce surplus space through school consolidations, and improve the condition of existing facilities.

Ontario is also investing in child care by creating almost 4,000 new licensed spaces in local schools to give children the opportunity to transition more easily into full-day kindergarten.

As of winter 2016, approximately 200 major capital school projects are either being planned or underway across Ontario, including projects that incorporate a community hub model. 

Postsecondary Education Infrastructure

Ontario is committed to developing a sustainable, transparent, student-centred postsecondary sector, where students have access to high-quality programs closer to home and where Ontario’s investments contribute to building a strong economy.

The Province plans to provide $3 billion in capital grants to postsecondary institutions over 10 years.

  • In May 2015, the government announced plans for a new postsecondary campus in Markham for about 4,000 students. The project will be a partnership between York University and Seneca College.
  • In 2016, Ontario will issue a second targeted call for proposals to serve the growing demand in Peel and Halton Regions and support creating good jobs and building Ontario’s economy.

 In addition to the new campus in York and any future campus in Halton/Peel, the Province is funding new capital projects such as:

  • Confederation College in Thunder Bay — A new technology, education and collaboration hub will bring together preparatory, apprenticeship, training, trades and technology programs, providing an array of instruction, innovation and incubation facilities.
  • La Cité collégiale in Ottawa — New interdisciplinary creativity incubators will create experiential learning space and help build a culture of innovation for francophones to meet the emerging needs of the labour market.

 

Investing in people’s talents and skills

Making Tuition More Affordable

The Ontario Student Grant (OSG) will make average college or university tuition free for students with financial need from families with incomes of $50,000 or less, and will make tuition more affordable for middle-class families.

Under the new OSG:

  • Students from families with incomes under $50,000 will have no provincial student debt.
  • More than 50 per cent of students from families with incomes of $83,000 or less will receive non-repayable grants that will exceed average college or university tuition.
  • All students will be the same or better off as under the Ontario Tuition Grant.

In addition, the Province will:

  • Increase access to interest-free and low-cost loans for middle- and upper-income families.
  • Expand financial support for mature and married students.
  • Raise the Ontario weekly assistance maximum levels for individuals and married and sole-support parents.
  • Ensure the maximum Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) debt level will be capped at $10,000 annually for higher-income families.
  • Continue to offer financial assistance for students who have difficulty repaying their student loans.

 

Transforming health care

Faster Access to Health Care

Primary Care

For patients with multiple conditions and the most complex care needs, the government has expanded its community Health Links — local, interdisciplinary care teams — to 82 from 69 across the province.

To further reduce wait times for key health care services, the Province is planning to:

  • Expand the scope of practice of registered nurses, allowing them to prescribe some medications directly to patients; and
  • Make more vaccines available, such as travel vaccines, through pharmacists.
  • Invest an additional $85 million over three years to ensure primary care teams can effectively recruit and retain qualified interprofessional staff. These investments will help clinics continue to provide services across the province, including northern, rural and fast-growing communities.

Better Access to Specialized Care

In 2015, the Province began funding the cost of one in vitro fertilization cycle per eligible patient, at more than 50 clinics across Ontario.

In 2016–17, the government will provide about $1 million to fund support services for those affected by pregnancy and infant loss, including resources to train volunteers and support parents and families who have experienced loss.

Investments in High-Quality Hospital Care

The government is increasing funding for hospitals by $345 million in response to the growing demand for highly specialized and complex services and the need to expand access in growing communities across the province.

Ontario plans to provide $12 billion over 10 years in capital grants to hospitals to continue building essential infrastructure. Currently there are about 35 major hospital projects under construction or in various stages of planning right across the province.

The Province is making the Small and Rural Hospital Transformation Fund permanent.

Expanding Services in Cancer Care

The Province is investing an additional $130 million in cancer care services, over the next three years, allowing for the delivery of more services and preventive programs.

Ontario is also investing in infrastructure to improve access to stem cell transplantation programs. This investment will create highly specialized rooms to enhance the life-saving services provided at Toronto’s University Health Network, Hamilton Health Sciences Centre and The Ottawa Hospital.

Mental Health and Addictions

Phase Two of the Province’s 10-year Mental Health and Addictions Strategy includes investing $16 million over three years, starting in 2014–15, to create 1,000 new housing spaces for people with mental health and addictions issues, including $4 million for 248 supportive housing units in 2016–17.

Ontario is also providing $1.5 million to the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre in Ottawa to support the construction of a new 30-bed youth residential treatment facility that will increase capacity, improve efficiency and ensure client needs are met in a safe and comfortable environment.

The Province is providing $2 million to 10 Indigenous organizations to engage with their communities and make recommendations on the unique mental health and addictions issues facing Indigenous peoples.

Sustaining Ontario's Public Drug Programs

The Province will introduce a redesigned public drug program by 2019. The new program will improve long-term sustainability while ensuring access to drugs for people who need them.

Starting August 1, 2016, the income thresholds to qualify for the low-income seniors’ benefit will increase from $16,018 to $19,300 for single seniors and from $24,175 to $32,300 for senior couples, consistent with the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) income levels.

Under these new thresholds, up to 170,000 seniors will be eligible to pay less for their prescription medications.

For seniors with income above these new thresholds, the annual deductible under the Ontario Drug Benefit Program will be increased from $100 to $170 and co-payments will be increased from $6.11 to $7.11 per claim.

Providing More Coordinated Care in the Community

Ontario has extended its commitment to increase funding by $250 million to expand capacity to deliver high-quality home and community care.

The government plans to continue to fund growth in community-based care at about five per cent per year to 2017–18, as committed to in previous Budgets.

The Province is investing an additional $75 million over the next three years in community-based, residential hospice and palliative care, for a total of about $155 million. This will bring Ontario’s funding of residential hospices to more than $55 million annually in 2018–19.

The government will invest an additional $10 million annually in Behavioural Supports Ontario to help long-term care home residents with dementia and other complex behaviours and neurological conditions.

The Province will increase its investment in resident care needs by two per cent a year over the next three years.

Keeping Ontarians Healthy

The Ontario legislature passed the Healthy Menu Choices Act, 2015, which comes into force in January 2017. The Act will require food premises with 20 or more locations to post calorie information for food and beverage items.

 To further help consumers, the government is proposing to amend the Act to require the caloric and related information on menus and menu boards to appear close to the listing or picture of food items.

 The government is developing amendments to the Immunization of School Pupils Act that, if passed, would protect students and communities by including stronger requirements for school vaccine exemptions.

The Province is proposing to authorize pharmacists to administer a wider range of vaccines, increasing immunization efficiency and convenience for Ontarians.

The government is making the shingles vaccine free for eligible Ontario seniors between the ages of 65 and 70 — saving them about $170 and reducing emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

To further support smoking cessation prevention efforts, the Province is increasing the tobacco tax rate by $3 per carton of 200 cigarettes, and increasing tobacco taxes annually at the rate of inflation beginning in 2017.

The Province will use $5 million of increased revenues from the tobacco tax to support a new investment that will enhance priority populations’ access to smoking cessation services, no matter where they live in Ontario.

 

Towards a fair society

Long-term Affordable Housing Strategy (LTAHS) - investing $178 million over three years to update and enhance affordable housing

Children and youth with autism – improving services through a five-year, $333 million investment

Social Assistance - increasing rates by 1.5 per cent in 2016, with an additional top-up for those with the lowest rates

Basic Income Pilot - working with communities, researchers and stakeholders to determine how best to design and implement a program

Support for Refugees - increasing our commitment to $12.5 million for international relief efforts and direct supports in Ontario

Ending Violence Against Indigenous Women - committing $100 million to a Long-term Strategy

 

Strenthening retirement security

To reduce the retirement savings gap, Ontario is implementing the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP).

Ontario on its way to achieving its goal of ensuring that by 2020, all eligible Ontario workers will be covered by a comparable workplace pension plan or ORPP.

Based on feedback from businesses, employer verification and enrollment process will launch in 2017, and employer/employee contribution collections will commence in 2018.

At the same time, Ontario remains committed to finding a solution that will allow the needs of Ontario employees to be met under a national framework. 

Working collaboratively and intensively in national discussions to explore potential enhancements to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP)

Main objective is to look at ways to meet the goals of the ORPP in an enhanced CPP framework while preserving the ability to implement the ORPP should that not be possible.

 

Making life easier for Ontarians

  • Making hospital parking more affordable for patients and visitors
  • Providing assistance to low-income households to receive an annual benefit on their electricity bills through the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP)
  • Dedicating $100 million towards Energy-Saving Home Retrofits
  • Lowering the cost of auto insurance and taking steps to protect consumers and claimants
  • Enacting legislation to end the Debt Retirement Charge (DRC) for commercial, industrial and all other electricity users
  • Creating a best-in-class e-commerce open market place for the LCBO and boosting consumer convenience and choice by introducing wine, beer and cider in grocery stores
  • Making public services easier to use and access by developing a Digital Government Action Plan
  • Eliminating fees that drivers pay for Drive Clean emissions tests

 

Responsible fiscal management

The government is continuing to invest in the economy, people and a healthy, clean and prosperous low-carbon future, while beating its fiscal targets.  These investments will help enhance the public services on which Ontarians rely, as well as stimulate growth.  Good jobs and a growing economy are the best ways to support Ontario’s families and generate revenues on the path to balance and long-term prosperity.

The government is projecting a deficit of $4.3 billion in 2016-2017, reflecting an improvement of $0.5billion compared with the 2015 Budget forecast.  The government is also projecting it will meet its commitment to return to balance in 2017 -2018, the result of a plan to eliminate the deficit that was first laid out in the 2010 budget. 

The Province is on track to beat its deficit target for the 7th year in a row. By continuing to beat its fiscal targets, the government’s accumulated deficit is $30millionlower than it otherwise would have been.

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