BY ALYSSA MAHADEO
As an Ontario taxpayer, there is a lot that we can educate ourselves on when it comes to how the province is spending money. Every year thousands of dollars are budgeted towards different aspects of building up the city’s economy, supplementing the growth of the infrastructure, and investing in the creation of new jobs or funding education.
Hon. Mitzie Hunter, Associate Minister of Finance Responsible for the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan provided some insight as how the 2016 budget will be allocated for this year, distributed to some of the most pressing matters facing the economy right now. Budget 2016 – Jobs for Today and Tomorrow, will address the provinces growing economy by investing money in the infrastructure to stimulate job growth, provide financial aid for students from middle income families and a free alternative to students from lower income families, as well as a commitment to confronting racism in all forms, to advance equality for all residing in the province of Ontario with the creation of the anti-racism Directorate.
The 2016 budget promises to invest $160 billion over the next twelve years in the infrastructure in Ontario. This will be the biggest asset to infrastructure development in Ontario’s history. Through this investment the province expects that this will help in the creation of new jobs that will in turn boost the economy and encourage more people to travel. The main priority this year is to stimulate growth in the economy and create more jobs. Since the recession in 2009 Ontario has created more than 600,000 jobs and is well on the course to creating more than 300,000 additional jobs by the end of 2019. As our population grows the need for these new jobs are imperative to helping the population spend more time with family and improving the movement of adding 110,000 jobs per year. The budget highlighted that a major part of the investment would be in developing improved and increased GO rail service, transit, subway expansions, road developments and funding towards building more hospitals.
Over the next year, the deficit is predicted to be $5.7 billion, which is $2.8 billion lower than anticipated in the 2015 Budget. The government is projecting a deficit of $4.3 billion in 2016–2017. Ontario will balance the budget in 2017–2018, while continuing to make investments that stimulate economic growth and create jobs.
Starting next year Ontario is planning to make college and university more affordable as well as more accessible to prepare more students to fill the positions of all the new jobs of tomorrow. Ontario is transforming student assistance to lower the cost of tuition for middle-income families and making it free for students with financial needs with incomes of $50,000 or lower. This will ensure that students from families of low income will have no provincial student debt while increasing access to interest-free and low-cost loans for middle and upper-income families. Non-repayable grants that will exceed average tuition will be provided to more than 50% of students from families of $83,000 or less. They will also be improving access to postsecondary education and training for First Nation, Métis and Inuit learners through continuing the three year, $97 million investment. This financial support will be made available to mature students ensuring that all students will be the same or better off under the Ontario Tuition Grant.
The Ontario government is dedicated to creating opportunities for all Ontarians by helping them to achieve their fullest potential. Budget 2016 promises an improvement in services for children with autism through a five-year, $333 million investment. A substantial part of the budget will be contributed to strides in health care making the shingles vaccine free for eligible Ontario seniors between the ages of 65 and 70 — saving them about $170, reducing surgery wait times and social assistance in end of life care. A new strategy in an effort to end chronic homelessness over the next ten years, they are giving more people access to adequate and affordable housing through a three year investment of $178 million, as part of the Long-Term Affordable Housing.
Committed to making everyday life easier for all Ontarians, a significant portion of the budget is allocated to reducing hospital parking fees for frequent hospital users at hospitals that charge more than $10 a day, eliminating the $30 Drive Clean emissions test fee, saving money on electricity, auto insurance and increasing consumer convenience and choice by introducing wine, beer and cider in grocery stores across the province.
One of the biggest movements put into action by the 2016 budget is the creation of the Anti-Racism Directorate, a commitment to addressing racism in all forms whether it is ending violence against Indigenous women, carding or any type of racial profiling to advance the equality of all Ontarians. The Anti-Racism Directorate promises to work together with community organizations educational institutions and the Ontario Human Rights Commission to increase public education and awareness of racism to create a more inclusive province and employ an anti-racism lens in developing, implementing and evaluating government policies, programs and services. The Anti-Racism Directorate is part of the government’s commitment to fight discrimination and ensure that everyone in Ontario has the opportunity to fulfill their potential and participate equally in society.
For more information, visit Ontario.ca/budget.