Ontario is turning the corner to a better tomorrow.
Jobs are coming back. The economy is improving.
The Open Ontario plan to make Ontario more competitive is working.
Now that the economy is improving, the government is renewing its focus on eliminating the deficit and reforming the deivery of public services.
A strong economy creates jobs and protects education and health care. Strong education and health care systems, in turn, strengthen the economy.
In its first five years, the McGuinty government worked with Ontarians to repair years of neglect and rebuild the province’s schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, roads and bridges. The government established a strong fiscal record, eliminating the $5.5 billion deficit it inherited and delivering three balanced budgets.
Then the global recession hit.
The McGuinty government chose to help lessen the impact of the recession on Ontarians, through short-term stimulus investments that created and preserved jobs and helped restore growth. During the global economic downturn, the government protected education, health care and other key public services.
To make Ontario’s economy more competitive for future generations, the government also modernized Ontario’s tax system; rebuilt the electricity system into one that is clean, modern and reliable; introduced full-day kindergarten; and increased the number of students in colleges and universities.
Ontario’s success depends on economic growth, job creation and strong education and health care systems. The 2011 Budget builds on the progress made in these areas over the past seven years. It also addresses the fiscal challenge facing Ontario.
As a result of the actions taken to lessen the global recession’s impact, Ontario, like other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world, has a deficit. To overcome this challenge, the government must renew its focus on deficit reduction. Eliminating the deficit while protecting education and health care will require long-term reform in the way government does business. Government must accelerate its efforts to enhance efficiency, improve systems, pursue innovation and get better value for money.
Other approaches, such as reducing the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), would require deep cuts to education and health care, which would hurt Ontario families and the economy.
The government has laid out a realistic and responsible plan to eliminate the deficit. Through prudent fiscal management, the government has improved upon the deficit targets outlined in the 2010 Budget. As a result, the 2011 Budget is projecting deficits of $16.7 billion in 2010–11, $16.3 billion in 2011–12 and $15.2 billion in 2012–13. This represents an improvement of $4.7 billion over three years from the projections outlined in the 2010 Budget.
These results are in large part the outcome of the government’s continued efforts to reduce growth in program expense while protecting the public services that matter most to people.
While the government will continue to tackle the deficit with determination, it will not put vital public services at risk or resort to arbitrary, across-the-board cuts. It will accelerate its plan to enhance efficiency and improve productivity by streamlining programs and identifying new models of service delivery. It will explore new ways to export and create value from Ontario’s excellence in delivering those public services that are recognized as being among the best in the world.
The 2011 Budget builds on the gains Ontario has made in economic growth and job creation, which allow for strong schools and health care. A well-educated workforce and public health care also strengthen Ontario’s economy and attract investment and jobs.
Ontario’s economy is turning the corner and jobs are coming back. Statistics Canada data confirm that the province has recovered 91 per cent of the jobs lost during the recession, compared to 14.5 per cent in the United States. Nearly 84 per cent of the Ontario jobs recovered are full-time jobs.
Ontario’s Tax Plan for Jobs and Growth, which includes tax cuts for people and reducing corporate income tax rates, is making Ontario businesses more competitive and is strengthening business investment. Investments by the private sector in building, machinery and equipment rose by 7.4 per cent in 2010. A more competitive business climate is creating more jobs and higher incomes for Ontarians.
Over the next several weeks, Ontario and private-sector partners will be announcing new investments of over $1.3 billion, including nearly $175 million from the Province, creating more than 2,100 jobs and retaining nearly 7,800 jobs.
The government recognizes that volatility in commodity markets can make it difficult for farmers to manage business risks. Risk management programs can help mitigate these difficulties by providing stable support for managing costs. The 2011 Budget announces the extension of the current Risk Management Program for grain and oilseed farmers. The government will also implement a new Risk Management Program for the cattle, hog, sheep and veal sectors, as well as a Self-Directed Risk Management Program for the edible horticulture sector. The cost of these programs will be shared between the Ontario government and farmers.
These risk management programs represent an innovative approach to supporting Ontario’s farmers — one that would provide bankability, stability and predictability while responding to market trends over the long term.
Ontario’s economic success depends on a well-educated workforce that can compete in the global economy. Since 2003, the McGuinty government has made significant investments in colleges and universities. The 2011 Budget announces funding to support more than 60,000 additional students in colleges and universities by 2015–16.
Through its Open Ontario plan, the government will support raising the percentage of Ontarians who attain postsecondary education from 63 per cent to 70 per cent and ensure a college or university space is available for every qualified student.
Investing in skills and education, starting as early as kindergarten, helps students reach their full potential and enhances Ontario’s economic success. Full-day kindergarten is a key part of the government’s plan to help Ontario’s children get the best possible start and to help busy parents save time and money.
This school year, full-day kindergarten is available in nearly 600 schools for up to 35,000 Ontario children. In September 2011, it will be available in an additional 200 schools, benefiting up to 50,000 children. The program will be fully implemented in September 2014, benefiting about 247,000 children and their families.
Cancer outcomes in Ontario are among the best in the world. However, more can be done. Detecting and treating breast cancer at the earliest possible stage is critical. Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed type of cancer among Ontario women and is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths.
Currently, women under the age of 50 can only access mammography services with a referral from a physician or a nurse practitioner. An expanded screening program is needed so that younger women at high risk can also benefit from the high-quality assessment services and followups provided through the Ontario Breast Screening Program.
The 2011 Budget announces additional funding over the next three years to provide approximately 90,000 more breast cancer screening exams. This would expand the Ontario Breast Screening Program to reach women between the ages of 30 and 49 who are at high risk for breast cancer due to genetic factors, medical or family history, and to support additional exams for women aged 50 to 69 currently covered under the program. With this change, Ontario would be a leader in organized breast cancer screening programs.
Mental health problems and addiction can affect people at many stages in their life. It is estimated that 20 per cent of Ontarians will experience a serious mental illness or have a substance abuse issue in their lifetime. When people struggle with mental health problems or addictions, their families and friends, co-workers and fellow students can also be affected.
Mental health problems often begin at a young age — about 70 per cent of mental health issues have their onset in childhood and adolescence, but people do not always receive the services they need. The system of supports must be more integrated and more responsive to the needs of children and youth. The government will invest in a comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, starting with children and youth.
Beginning in April 2011, the government will expand the pharmacy services and support available to Ontarians receiving drug coverage through the Ontario Drug Benefit Program — primarily seniors and social assistance recipients.
Building on the successful MedsCheck program, the government will fund and support pharmacies offering a range of services, including prescription followup consultations; medication assessment for patients with chronic diseases; and training in how to operate home diagnostic devices, such as glucose monitors and blood pressure monitoring kits.
Opening Ontario to economic growth and jobs while protecting the progress Ontarians have made in their schools and health care requires a commitment to prudent fiscal management and balanced budgets. Although the economy is turning the corner, the government cannot rely on economic growth alone to eliminate the deficit.
The new investments outlined in this Budget are affordable because the government is setting priorities and getting better value for money across government.
The McGuinty government has a strong track record of fiscal prudence and discipline. In addition to eliminating the deficit it inherited and posting three balanced budgets, it has overachieved its budget targets in five of the last seven fiscal years.
The expenditure management measures introduced in the 2010 Budget produced immediate dividends, with 2010–11 total expense projected to be $3 billion lower than forecast a year ago. This is the second year in a row that total expense has come in under the budget projections.
This Budget builds on the government’s record of success in finding savings. Initiatives announced in this Budget and since December 2010 would help realize savings of nearly $1.5 billion across government over the next three fiscal years.
To protect education and health care, the government will also enhance quality, consistency and value for money by consolidating programs and examining new forms of service delivery. It will also explore new ways to export and create value from Ontario’s excellence in delivering those public services that are recognized as being among the best in the world.
The 2011 Budget identifies several new initiatives, including:
To provide advice on reforms that would help accelerate its plan to eliminate the deficit while protecting education and health care, the government will establish a Commission on Broader Public Sector Reform. Building on reforms already underway, and on the approach to enhanced public service delivery laid out in this Budget, the Commission will examine long-term, fundamental changes to the way government works. The Commission’s work will include exploring which areas of service delivery are core to the Ontario government’s mandate, which areas could be delivered more efficiently by another entity and how to get better value for taxpayers’ money in the delivery of public services.
The Commission will report to the Minister of Finance in time to inform the development of the 2012 Budget. The Commission will not make recommendations that would increase taxes or lead to the privatization of health care or education.
This Budget describes the choices Ontarians are making for a better tomorrow as the province’s economy turns the corner from the global recession. It also lays out the government’s realistic, achievable plan to manage spending in order to secure the province’s long-term financial sustainability and protect front-line services for Ontario families. The Budget builds on the government’s determination to protect education and health care and the belief that a strong economy that creates jobs is key to fulfilling that commitment.