The Doug Ford government unveiled its first budget today. Giving previous pledges to balance the government’s books, the expectation going in was that this was going to be a bad news budget.
Instead, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli delivered what he called a thoughtful and measured approach towards reducing spending. He announced no new taxes but also no new tax cuts.
Overall program spending remained flat. Some sectors got more money, some less, all part of the province’s five-year plan to achieve a balanced budget.
Here’s how the budget reduction plan breaks down:
$11.7 billion- 2018-2019
$10.3 billion- 2019-2020
$6.8 billion – 2020-2021
$5.6 billion – 2021-2022
$3.5 billion – 2022-2023
$300 million – 2023-2024
The deficit, which is now at $11.7 billion will be cut by $1.4 billion next year. It will be reduced gradually to the point where the province is projecting a modest surplus in 2023-2024 after the next
provincial election. The government forecast is based on their projections that program expenses will grow at an annual average rate of 1% while tax revenue will grow at the rate of 3%.
There are some new spending initiatives in the budget. The new Ontario Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit, is a plan that’s meant to put parents, not governments, at the centre of the decision-making process. CARE focuses on low to moderate income families. According to provincial documents: “Families could receive up to $6000 per child under seven, up to $3,750 per child between the ages of seven and 16 and up to $8,250 per child with a severe disability.”
The province is also providing funding to low-income seniors who lack benefits. Seniors with incomes of $19,300 or less, or senior couples with combined incomes of less than $32,300 will be able to receive dental care in public health units, community health centres and Aboriginal Health Access Centres.
The province has made several moves to loosen the restrictions surrounding alcohol. The government plans to introduce legislation that would let municipalities to decide whether to allow alcohol consumption in public areas such as parks. The province will allow liquor to be part of tailgating and wants to extend the drinking hours of bars, restaurants and golf courses; starting at 9 a.m. It also changes the rules to allow “Happy Hour” advertising and plans to lower beer costs for Royal Canadian Legion halls.
More details and live interviews coming up on the Evening News at 6 p.m.