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4 key priorities: Breaking down Fedeli's budget speech

Last Updated Apr 11, 2019 at 10:05 pm EDT

Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli presents the 2019 budget as Premier Doug Ford looks on at the legislature in Toronto on Thursday, April 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli summarized his first budget speech with four key priorities.

Here is a breakdown of those four priorities and the extensive list of initiatives that will be used to back up the strong statements:

Balancing the budget

The first priority outlined by the finance minister was “restoring the accountability of trust by introducing a credible, sustainable and fully costed plan that will return the province to fiscal balance.”

Fedeli announced they expect to balance the budget in five years, after the next provincial election.

“Balancing the budget is a critical first step in protecting our core services. Balancing the budget requires discipline, determination and an appetite to take a different approach to government,” Fedeli said.

The deficit has reportedly already been reduced by $3.3 billion to $11.7 billion since the Progressive Conservatives have been in office. Fedeli says they expected to further reduce it by nearly $1.5 billion to $10.3 billion.

As part of the budget legislation, the government has proposed a new accountability framework called the Fiscal Sustainability Transparency and Accounting Act. “This represents the first comprehensive change to Ontario’s fiscal planning legislation in 15 years.”

The legislation would require the budget to be read by March 31 and would involve a fine of equal to 10 per cent from the salaries of the Premier and Minister of Finance for each missed reporting deadline.

“We are quite literally putting our money where our mouth is,” he said.

Fedeli adds any unused money from the reserves and contingency fund, as well as any unspent dollars at the end of the year, will go into debt reduction.

Healthcare and education

The provincial government’s second priority is “protecting what matters most by adopting bold new ways to deliver world-class services such as health care and education while supporting our frontline workers.”

Fedeli said they are increasing year-over-year investments in both healthcare and education. “The challenges of an aging population and older schools are real and will require even further investment.”

Fedeli announced a new “child-care access tax credit” by criticizing the previous government’s “outdated ‘government knows best’ approach,” while asking the question, “Why don’t we let parents decide what childcare options look best for them?”

The child-care tax credit is expected to give parents up to $6,000 per child under seven and up to $3,750 per child between seven and 16.

Fedeli said it will provide about 300,000 people with up to 75 per cent of their eligible expenses for child-care centres, home base care and camps. It will put “parents at the centre of the decision-making process.”

They are also creating 30,000 childcare spaces in schools over the next five years. Fedeli said $1 billion will go towards the spaces which could be operated by for-profit or not-for-profit groups.

Healthcare was also a main topic in the budget speech, where Fedeli outlined the previously announced plan to create an integrated delivery model and establish Ontario health teams.

They will be also providing $17 billion in capital grants over the next 10 years to modernize and increase capacity at hospitals.

Fedeli adds the government is well on their way to creating 15,000 long-term care beds and are “also committed to upgrading 15,000 long-term care beds.” Low-income seniors will also be receiving free dental care, which is expected to cost $90 million.

In terms of mental health funding, Fedeli said they will be putting $3.8 billion over 10 years to support acute mental health inpatient beds, community health and justice services, and supportive housing.

Fedeli laid out the government’s previously announced education plan, including back-to-basics math, renewed focus on STEM, skilled trades and financial literacy.

He adds they are also drafting a Ministry of Education “Parents Bill of Rights.” He did not provide any more details about that specific legislation.

Fedeli claimed no teacher is being fired under their new plan, “despite what their opponents often claim.” “Our hope and expectation is that our partners in Ontario’s teacher unions will join us in this incredibly important journey,” he adds.

The finance minister also announced the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act will be replaced by new legislation that will encourage employer participation in the apprenticeship system through a new financial incentive program. It will also create a digital portal for apprenticeship opportunities.

Affordability and convenience for Ontarians

The third priority outlined in Fedeli’s budget speech is “putting people first by making life more affordable and convenient with our new childcare tax credit, flexible auto insurance plan, expanded rapid transit system and a reduced estate administration tax.”

“Everything we do, every decision we make, every dollar we spend must pass one simple test: Is it good for the people?” Fedeli said they are taking steps to improve consumer choice and convenience.

“The dream of home-ownership has been out-of-reach for many first-time buyers.” He adds to break down some of those barriers, the province is introducing a housing supply action plan to make it easier to develop the right mix of housing when needed and to develop rental housing.

Fedeli announced more details about their transit project, saying they are implementing the largest increase in GO rail service in five years. “We are committed to providing two-way, all day service, every 15-minutes in core segments of the networks.”

Fedeli adds the government is also making transformative changes to the auto insurance system, allowing insurance companies to offer driver discounts.

They are also introducing a driver care card which is expected to streamline access to care to make the claims process easier to access.

When talking about convenience for Ontarians, Fedeli announced they are continuing to move forward with the plan to allow corner stores, big box stores and even more grocery stores to sell alcohol.

The government will also be digitizing the top 10 transactions by Service Ontario, including the issuing of driver’s licences, health cards and vehicles permits. Fedeli said it will shift 10 million transactions to digital platforms over the next five years.

Making Ontario “open for business”

An often uttered phrase by Premier Doug Ford, the final priority of the PC’s is to make “Ontario open for business, open for jobs, lowering business costs, and making it easier for employers to hire workers and for workers to find a job.”

Fedeli says instead of a carbon tax, often criticized by the provincial government, they will be establishing a $400 million emission reduction fund to speed up the development of low-carbon solutions and encourage private sector investment in clean technologies.

Fedeli said they are also committed to streamlining the process for film and entertainment companies to take advantage of the five tax credits currently offered by the province.

The government is introducing new legislation to make it safer for professional and amateur athletes to compete in combative sports. “Ontario’s rules and regulations for combative sports, such as MMA, boxing and kickboxing are out-of-date,” said Fedeli.

Related stories:

Ontario’s vice grip: Budget extends freedoms on drinking, gambling
5 interesting takeaways from the provincial budget
Funding for colleges, universities, increasingly tied to performance outcomes
No new taxes but Ontario budget won’t be balanced until after next election

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