The Doug Ford PC government is planning to build.
The Ontario government has tabled a pre-election budget that includes plans to spend billions on highways, public transit and hospitals.
On April 28, a 241-page document was released and pledged $158.8 billion over 10 years for highways, transit and hospitals. Infrastructure spending for this year alone is $20 billion.
The budget projects Ontario will be in a $19.9-billion deficit and won’t come to balance until 2027-28.
The Independent Financial Accountability Office suggested earlier this month the PCs could balance the budget by 2023-24 without the new spending.
Included in the document, titled Ontario’s Plan to Build, are five main spending pillars, which include:
• Rebuilding Ontario’s Economy
• Working for Workers
• Building Highways and Key Infrastructure
• Keeping Costs Down
• A Plan to Stay Open
Doug Ford, Leader of the Ontario PC Party, said Ontarians deserve a government that has a real plan to build.
“This budget is our vision and our plan to cut through the excuses and take action right away on the priorities of the people of Ontario,” said Ford. He said the budget focuses on rebuilding Ontario’s economy, working for workers, building highways and key infrastructure, keeping costs down and incorporating a plan to stay open.
According to Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, the Ford Conservatives will pave over wetlands, farmland and threaten the Greenbelt for their wasteful Highway 413.
“A Liberal government will invest $10 billion in building and repairing schools across Ontario,” said Del Duca.
Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party, agreed with Del Duca. She said there was no guarantee the PCs would pass the budget in its current form should they win the election
“I am absolutely concerned about a bait and switch. There must be a hidden budget somewhere – because the finance minister refused to commit to the document he put in front of you today, he was very uncomfortable.”
She added Ford had cut billions from health care, seniors care and education.
“And he’s cutting $2.7 billion more,” she added. “Bottom line, if you’re not one of Ford’s buddies, this ain’t it.”
Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy defended the size of the nearly $200 billion spending plan, which sees the province stay in deficit until the next election or later, saying it addresses affordability issues brought on by once-in-a-generation high levels of inflation.
“What you’ve seen is us bringing costs down on many fronts – lower income tax for those making $50,000 or less is part of our plan – we’ve given the license plate stickers – and the previous Liberal government, they just increased fees every year – with the license plate stickers, that’s like an immediate tax cut.”
Ford’s government says it will pour $25.1 billion over 10 years into repairing, expanding and creating highways, roads and bridges in various parts of the province.
The projects include a new twin bridge over the Welland Canal on the Queen Elizabeth Way and widening Highway 401 in eastern Ontario starting in Pickering, Ont., and Oshawa, Ont.
The fiscal blueprint shows the province managed to bring down its deficit to $13.5 billion in 2021-22 from $16.4 billion in the first year of the pandemic.
Hospital infrastructure projects are also slated to receive more than $40 billion over the next decade, including roughly $27 billion in capital funding.
Additionally, a new personal income tax credit will help offset the cost of some medical expenses for seniors.
This includes a new $1,500 Ontario Seniors Care at Home Tax Credit, aimed to help with the costs of medical devices, dentures and nurse’s visits. The province said it also plans to enhance the Low-Income Individuals and Families Tax Credit, allowing those making up to $50,000 annually to qualify.
The program would kick in this tax year and be available to those who turned 70 or older in the tax year or have a spouse that age, and are Ontario residents at the end of the tax year.
In addition, the province is promising to boost tax relief for lower-income workers and families and increase the number of people who qualify for the benefit.
The budget says 1.1 million Ontario taxpayers stand to save an additional $300 this year, on average, as a result of changes to the Low-Income Individuals and Families Tax Credit program.
It says the maximum amount will go up to $875 from $850, and more workers will be eligible, for a total of about 1.7 million beneficiaries.
The $198.6 billion budget is the largest in Ontario history, surpassing the final Kathleen Wynne budget in 2018.
Voters will decide which political party forms Ontario’s next government on Thursday, June 2, 2022. Premier Doug Ford is seeking a second term in a race that also includes NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and the Liberals’ Steven Del Duca.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News