2015 Ontario Budget Highlights

(TORONTO, ON) – Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa released the 2015 Budget, which makes investment in infrastructure to support economic growth and new jobs.

The Budget acts on the government’s commitment to finding more innovative ways to grow the economy while maintaining the vital public services that families and communities rely on. This includes unlocking the value of provincial assets to support the largest infrastructure investment in Ontario’s history.

The Province is also introducing the sale of beer in grocery stores to increase customer convenience and choice while maintaining Ontario’s strong commitment to social responsibility.

Ontario is projecting a deficit of $8.5 billion in 2015-16, less than forecast in the 2014 Budget, and which would be the lowest level since the onset of the global recession.

The Province will continue to take a thoughtful and deliberate approach to the path to balance, with a deficit of $4.8 billion forecast for 2016-17 and a return to balance by 2017-18.

When Ontario invests, it is building. And when it is building, it is growing. The 2015 Budget continues and expands on Ontario’s plan to make an unprecedented investment of more than $130 billion in public infrastructure over 10 years.

  • Increasing the dedicated funds for Moving Ontario Forward by $2.6 billion for a total of $31.5 billion over 10 years; about $16 billion in transit projects in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) and about $15 billion available for transportation and other priority infrastructure projects outside the GTHA. The increase is due to a higher target from the Province’s asset optimization plan; and
  • A planned investment of $11.9 billion in 2015-16 on infrastructure such as roads, bridges, public transit, water systems, hospitals, and schools.

Increasing the dedicated funds for Moving Ontario Forward will accelerate priority projects and enable new projects to come on stream. The asset optimization plan includes:

  • Broadening Hydro One ownership to create lasting public benefits and on-going public and ratepayer protections.
  • Reviewing a number of prime-located real estate assets for sale.

Employment has rebounded strongly from the recessionary low in June 2009, with over half a million net new jobs created; three-quarters of which are in industries paying above-average wages. The Province has more than recovered all the jobs lost since the global economic recession.

  • Increasing funding for the 10-year, $2.5 billion Jobs and Prosperity Fund to partner with more businesses, enhancing productivity, increasing innovation, growing exports and creating jobs. The 2015 Budget announces that the fund will be increased by a total of $200 million beginning in 2015-16, increasing the fund to $2.7 billion over 10 years and extending eligibility to the forestry sector.
  • Continuing, beyond March 2016, electricity pricing support for qualifying large northern industrial facilities, which sustain jobs and global competitiveness.
  • Tackling climate change now to ensure a prosperous economic future and a flourishing society. Ontario will move forward with a cap-and-trade system as its carbon pricing mechanism. Proceeds from a cap-and-trade program will be directed towards key priorities that will help lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Ontario’s greatest strength is its people. By investing in people today and giving Ontarians the support they need to get the right skills and the right jobs, the government is building the strong economy of tomorrow.

  • Continuing to improve education and skills training, from preschool and full-day kindergarten through to postsecondary education and trade apprenticeship programs, with innovations such as experiential learning pilot programs.
  • Investing an additional $250 million over two years in the Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy, bringing the total investment in youth employment programming to more than $565 million.
  • Modernizing the Ontario Student Assistance Program to strengthen financial assistance for students.

Since 2010-11, the Province has held average annual growth in program spending to 1.5 per cent, below the rate of inflation, without cutting vital services.

The 2015 Budget makes further progress towards fiscal balance by:

  • Continuing Program Review, Renewal and Transformation (PRRT), a fundamentally new approach to multi-year planning and budgeting. It is identifying both short- and longer-term opportunities to transform programs and services, and making tough choices to end programs that are not performing, do not link to key priorities or no longer serve a clear public interest. For 2014-15, a $250 million program review savings target was met through a number of initiatives that identified efficiencies, lowered costs or reduced administrative overhead without affecting front-line services. The program review savings targets are $500 million for each of 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18.
  • Managing program expense growth over the medium term, which is projected to be held to an average of 0.9 per cent between 2013-14 and 2017-18.
    • Total health sector expense is projected to grow on average by 1.9 per cent per year, education sector expense by 2.0 per cent per year, children’s and social services sector expense by 2.9 per cent per year and justice sector expense by 1.5 per cent per year.
    • Postsecondary and training sector expense will be largely unchanged and all other programs expense is projected to decrease on average by 5.5 per cent per year.
  • Continuing to negotiate collective agreements with the Ontario Public Service and broader public sector within Ontario’s existing fiscal framework, which does not include additional funding for wage increases. Any modest wage increases must be offset by other measures within current funding available to employers to create a net zero agreement.
    • Since July 2012, the average annual negotiated wage increase across Ontario’s provincial public sector has been 0.6 per cent. This is lower than Ontario’s municipal public sector (1.9 per cent), the federal public sector in Ontario (1.7 per cent) and Ontario’s private sector (2.0 per cent).
  • Combatting the underground economy, which is estimated to be $15 billion in annual economic activity in Ontario, to help level the playing field for business. The Province is achieving this through better collection of information and analytics, increased measures to address contraband tobacco, and reducing corporate tax avoidance. The Province will also propose to make the use, manufacture or distribution of electronic sale suppression technologies illegal.
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About the Author

Ian Shalapata
Ian Shalapata is the owner and publisher of Square Media Group. He covers politics, the police beat, community events, the arts, sports, and everything in between. His imagery and freelance contributions have appeared in select publications and for organizations in Canada and the United States. Contact Ian with story ideas.

1 Comment on "2015 Ontario Budget Highlights"

  1. The budget will be balanced by 2017 – 2018 because the Liberal party will be raising our cost of living with higher taxes and higher utilities costs to the consumer.
    The one thing this budget doesn’t show is the higher poverty level us Ontarians will be at do to the higher taxes on products we buy and the high utility costs we are forced to pay. Any party can balance a budget by raising taxes and utilities, a good party can balance our budget without raising our cost of living, just cut useless spending.

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