Ontario's Tories don't plan to balance books until after election

Ontario's Tories don't plan to balance books until after election

The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks is losing the most money, almost $278 million, which will put its budget at $631 million.

The cuts to social programs were part of the $163.4-billion package the Tories unveiled in their first budget - almost $5 billion larger than the last budget from the previous Liberal government.

"The cornerstone of putting people first is consumer choice and convenience", said Finance Minister Vic Fedeli.

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

The 2019 provincial budget dramatically loosens the government's grip on vices, giving Ontarians easier access to alcohol and more options when it comes to gambling.

Families with incomes of up to $150,000 will receive child-care support in the form of a new tax credit.

The government will spend an additional $450 million on health care than planned, due to a new compensation agreement with doctors, increased need for cancer treatment, higher drug costs and improvements to addiction services. Low-income seniors will also be receiving free dental care, which is expected to cost $90 million.

The province also intends to allow corner and big box stores to sell beer and wine, as previously pledged.

Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner pointed out that booze and gambling are mentioned "63 times" in the budget.

The new plates feature white lettering on a blue background (as opposed to the blue lettering on the white background of the outgoing plates), the tri-petal Ontario Trillium logo in the center, and of course the new slogan, "A Place to Grow".

The new alcohol regulations will also give wineries, cideries, breweries and distilleries greater flexibility to serve booze at their manufacturing sites, with the government planning to scrap required serving sizes.

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The NDP Opposition says cuts in the budget to social services will affect children and communities. "It's just shameful that this is a priority of Doug Ford, to have his ego on the back of everybody's auto".

But Horwath said that even in areas where spending is increasing, it's mostly below the rate of inflation, which she said amounts to cuts.

HEALTH-CARE SPENDING: The province will hike hospital spending by $384 million, which represents a two per cent increase in 2019-2020.

Health spending in Ontario has risen at an annual average of 4.2 per cent over the past three years.

It says that for years, performance has affected a small proportion of post-secondary funding - 1.4 per cent for universities and 1.2 per cent for colleges. It will tie 60 per cent of a school's funding by 2024-2025 to yet-to-be finalized metrics that will include student skills and job outcomes.

For example, when National Observer asked for a breakdown of cuts to justice services such as legal aid, a Ford staffer said that the ministry would have answers, but then failed to provide those answers.

Rules governing combative sports in Ontario will also see an overhaul, with legislation on the way to modernize the way kickboxing, mixed martial arts and boxing matches are staged in the province. "They say we're the economic driver and like to crow about that all of the time but it doesn't seem that it matters".

Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce president Charla Robinson pointed to changes to the Ontario immigration nominee program as an exciting piece.

"We have been lagging significantly in terms of productivity measures vis a vis our global competitors - this is an important step", he said.

Like the federal government, Ontario has favored faster write-offs of capital investments rather than corporate tax cuts to bolster competitiveness with the United States.

As part of the budget legislation, the government has proposed a new accountability framework called the Fiscal Sustainability Transparency and Accounting Act. In addition to tackling the deficit, the government is also taking aim at the net debt - now pegged at $343 billion - through ensuring surpluses and unused reserve or contingency funds go to paying it down.

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