KAWARTHA LAKES-Today, Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy released Ontario’s 2023 Budget: Building a Strong Ontario.
“Ontario’s economy remains resilient, but the road ahead continues to be uncertain,” said Minister Bethlenfalvy. “Our government has the right plan to navigate these challenges. We are building Ontario so we can have a strong economy for the future and the infrastructure needed to support growth across the province.”
Highlights of the budget include:
- Launching the new Ontario Made Manufacturing Investment Tax Credit, which would provide a 10 per cent refundable Corporate Income Tax credit to help local manufacturers lower their costs, invest in workers, innovate and become more competitive.
- Advancing Ontario’s Critical Minerals Strategy, which supports better supply chain connections between industries, resources and workers in Northern Ontario and manufacturing in Southern Ontario, including Ontario-based electric vehicle (EV) and battery manufacturing. The government is investing an additional $3 million in 2023–24 and $3 million in 2024–25 in the Ontario Junior Exploration Program to help more companies search for potential mineral deposits and attract further investments in this growing sector. The government is also continuing work to build the roads to the Ring of Fire.
- Attracting over $16 billion in investments by global automakers and suppliers of EV batteries and battery materials to position Ontario as a global leader on the EV supply chain, even before the most recent announcement for a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG to establish an EV battery manufacturing facility in St. Thomas, Ontario.
- Continuing to relieve gridlock, create jobs and connect communities by starting construction on key infrastructure projects, including the bridge crossing over the future Bradford Bypass, the next phase of construction for the new Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph, continuing work to widen Highway 401 from Pickering through Eastern Ontario, as well as moving ahead with plans to build Highway 413.
- Providing $224 million in 2023–24 for a new capital stream of the Skills Development Fund to leverage private-sector expertise and expand training centres, including union training halls to provide more accessible, flexible training opportunities for workers.
- Enhancing the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program with an additional $25 million over three years to attract more skilled workers, including in-demand professionals in the skilled trades, to the province.
Ontario’s 2022–23 deficit is projected to be $2.2 billion — $17.7 billion lower than the outlook published in the 2022 Budget and $4.4 billion lower than the outlook published in the 2022–23 Third Quarter Finances according to the government.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation criticized the Ford government for taking Ontario back into deficit territory with a “big-spending budget”.
“After Ontario finally balanced the books for the first time in over a decade, Ontario Premier Doug Ford is plunging the province back into deficit,” said CTF Ontario Director Jay Goldberg. “Ford had a strong hand dealt to him with higher revenue and a budget that was already balanced last year and he tossed away the cards.”
In a report released recently, the Financial Accountability Office (FAO) found that Ontario will be short about $21.3 billion in health spending by 2027-2028.
It said as a result, it is “unlikely” the province will achieve its goals of adding enough beds and hiring enough staff to keep up with demand.
Government officials say they are keeping costs down and providing better services.
- Supporting a full continuum of care for first responders experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Injury and other concurrent mental health disorders at Runnymede Healthcare Centre’s First Responders Wellness and Rehabilitation Centre, by advancing the dual-site project towards construction in Toronto and Peel, with an additional investment of $9.6 million to accelerate the project’s development towards its next round of approval.
- Providing financial support to more seniors by proposing changes to expand the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) program, starting in July 2024, to see 100,000 additional seniors be eligible for the program and the benefit adjusted annually to inflation.
- Calling on the federal government to defer the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) on all new large-scale purpose-built rental housing projects to tackle the ongoing housing affordability crisis. Ontario would support this measure, as it would help spur the construction of more rental housing units while helping to create jobs, encourage economic development and support growth.
- Investing in supportive housing with an additional $202 million each year in the Homelessness Prevention Program and Indigenous Supportive Housing Program to help those experiencing or at risk of homelessness, struggling with mental health and substance use, those escaping intimate partner violence, and support the community organizations delivering supportive housing.
- Helping more Ontario students becoming doctors by investing an additional $33 million over three years to add 100 undergraduate seats beginning in 2023, as well as 154 postgraduate medical training seats to prioritize Ontario residents trained at home and abroad beginning in 2024 and going forward. Ontario residents will also continue to be prioritized for undergraduate spots at medical schools in the province.
- Starting in fall 2023, expanding the program to allow pharmacists to prescribe over-the-counter medication for more common ailments, including mild to moderate acne, canker sores, diaper dermatitis, yeast infection, pinworms and threadworms, and nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.
- Providing an additional $425 million over three years to connect more people to mental health and addictions services, including a five per cent increase in the base funding of community-based mental health and addictions services providers funded by the Ministry of Health.
- Continuing the 2022 Budget commitment to invest $1 billion over three years to get more people connected to care in the comfort of their own home and community. The government is now accelerating investments to bring funding in 2023–24 up to $569 million, including nearly $300 million to support contract rate increases to stabilize the home and community care workforce. This funding will also expand home care services and improve the quality of care, making it easier and faster for people to connect to care.
- Improving long-term outcomes for youth leaving the child welfare system by investing $170 million over three years to support the Ready, Set, Go program to help youth achieve financial independence through life skills development, supports to pursue post-secondary education, training and pathways to employment.
“With our thoughtful, transparent approach we have a plan to balance the budget while delivering support to families, workers, and businesses across Ontario,” said Minister Bethlenfalvy. “We will continue with this approach that is building an Ontario the people of this province can be proud of, not only today but in the future. An Ontario that is strong.”
The government is also providing an update on Ontario’s economic and fiscal outlook, with a plan that will balance the budget in 2024-25, three years earlier than forecast in the last Budget.