2013 Ontario Budget
Chapter I: A Prosperous and Fair Ontario

Highlights

Access to High-Quality Public Services

  • Improving access to high-quality health care services for everyone.
  • Building on student success through the integration of early years programs and services, fully implementing full-day kindergarten, closing achievement gaps and increasing focus on higher-order skills that young students need to succeed.
  • Providing the 30% Off Ontario Tuition grant to improve access to postsecondary education.
  • Ensuring the sustainability of high-quality public services while keeping interest on debt at a manageable level to protect future generations.

Increasing Opportunities

  • Taking initial steps to reform social assistance to help more recipients find employment and improve their financial security by:
    • introducing a $200 a month earnings exemption to reduce barriers to employment;
    • increasing social assistance rates, including a top-up for single adults without children receiving Ontario Works; and
    • increasing Ontario Works liquid asset limits to help recipients save and become more financially secure.
  • Supporting greater opportunity for Aboriginal people through direct engagement on social assistance reform, more support for housing and transforming services to better meet the needs of Aboriginal children and young people.
  • Promoting Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSPs) to people with disabilities.
  • Strengthening the retirement income system by:
    • continuing to support a modest Canada Pension Plan (CPP) enhancement; and
    • consulting on implementing pooled registered pension plans (PRPPs) as an option in Ontario, before introducing legislation.

Section B: A Fair Society

Introduction

Ontario is a great place to live and work. It has a resilient economy and a strong social fabric, and the people of this province can take pride in what they have accomplished.

Ontario's economic performance and social fabric become even stronger when everyone has the opportunity to succeed to their full potential. A fair society means everyone has access to high-quality public services that support their well-being and capacity to contribute to the economy.

Providing all the people of Ontario with access to high-quality public services involves sustaining Ontario's publicly funded health care system. It is this system that assures individuals and families that their financial security will not be jeopardized if they become ill, and helps them participate productively in the workforce.

By investing in full-day kindergarten and leading the way in education excellence, Ontario's children can have the best possible start in life, grow to their full potential and succeed in the labour force.

Providing financial support through the 30% Off Ontario Tuition grant helps improve access for more Ontario students to postsecondary education.

Helping young people to gain employment and become entrepreneurs will help create new opportunities and contribute to Ontario's future prosperity.

Eliminating the deficit and reducing the net debt-to-GDP ratio will help lessen the burden on future generations of interest costs arising from the Province's debt.

Increasing opportunities for Ontario's future retirees to have secure incomes will help them maintain their living standards.

These actions support high-quality public services and promote fairness and a more prosperous Ontario.

Building a prosperous and fair Ontario also depends on helping everyone share the benefits of this great province. The government is reaffirming its commitment to addressing poverty through a cross-government approach, under the leadership of a new Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction.

This Cabinet Committee will lead the transformation of Ontario's social assistance system, building on the initial steps announced in this Budget. Social assistance in Ontario should be better focused on helping more people find employment and providing recipients with improved financial security.

The government will also continue to take steps to provide more supports for Ontario families. It will improve opportunities for Ontario's Aboriginal people, protect the most vulnerable, and build safer and stronger communities.

Access to High-Quality Public Services

Providing the Right Care, at the Right Time, in the Right Place

A fair society ensures that everyone has access to high-quality health care.

The government's goal is to make Ontario the healthiest place in North America to grow up and grow old by making sure families get the best health care where and when they need it.

Providing the right care, at the right time, in the right place is a key pillar of Ontario's Action Plan for Health Care. This Plan lays out the steps the government is taking to improve access to the care the people of Ontario need to:

  • have faster and improved access to primary care so that they no longer fall through the cracks between health care providers;
  • receive care in the most appropriate and convenient place, including in the community, so they can stay at home for as long as possible instead of waiting in emergency departments or for a bed in a long-term care home;
  • receive care when they are healthy — through wellness, prevention and health promotion initiatives — as well as when they are sick; and
  • get more value for the money they put into the health care system.

The government is making progress on its Action Plan to improve access to quality care and make the system better for all the people of Ontario. More details of this progress are included in Section C: Fiscally Responsible and Accountable Government of this chapter.

New investments are focused on providing care in the community so that more options are available to older Ontarians to help them stay at home longer, where they want to be. These investments will result in more home care for seniors — to help keep older Ontarians living healthier, more independent lives; provide relief for caregivers; and support those facing mental health and addiction challenges.

The government will be investing to reduce home care wait times for nursing services and improve personal support services for clients with complex care needs. All clients requiring nursing services, including hospital and community referrals, will be targeted to receive service within five days of Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) assessment. For complex care clients, referred by either community clinics or hospitals, in need of personal support services, the target will be first service within five days of CCAC assessment.

The government is also focusing investments on those who need care the most through community Health Links that will foster collaboration — where different providers caring for the same person will have one unified plan of care for that person. With improved coordination and information sharing, patients will have better access to the most appropriate care, spend less time waiting for services and be supported by a team of health care providers.

Improving Health Care for All

The government is committed to ensuring all the people in this province have access to the same high-quality health care services. To achieve this goal, the government is focused on implementing measures that help meet the unique health care needs of patients across Ontario, including:

  • investing $20 million annually to help small and rural hospitals improve patient care and transform their organizations. The government is supporting these hospitals in their role of delivering critical health care services within their local communities;
  • launching Ontario's Action Plan for Seniors to provide better access to health care, quality resources, and improved safety and security for Ontario's seniors. The Plan, which builds on recommendations from Dr. Samir Sinha's report, "Living Longer, Living Well," draws on new and existing government programs to ensure seniors and their caregivers have access to the services they need, when and where they need them. This includes new supports for long-term care homes and matching a primary care provider with every Ontario senior who wants one;
  • moving forward with the Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, focused to date on children and youth, with funding growing to $93 million per year by 2013–14. The government will build on this Strategy over the coming year to expand and improve services for adults as well as youth. In addition, the government continues to support mental health and addiction services across the province, including early intervention, community-based counselling, employment training, supportive housing, residential treatment, and prevention of and treatment for substance abuse and problem gambling; and
  • working with First Nation communities to increase access to care and community supports for those addicted to prescription narcotics. The government is investing in five new Community Wellness Development Teams with mental health and addictions expertise, blending traditional and cultural practices. The investment will also support the use of telemedicine equipment to allow providers to conference with patients in remote communities.

Supporting Northern Ontario Communities

In addition to continuing to support the travel costs of the people of northern Ontario who must travel to access medical services, these patients can also expect to benefit from more virtual connections and e-consultations that will be implemented as part of the new agreement with the Ontario Medical Association.

High-Quality Education for All

A fair society is one that helps ensure that all children and youth have access to high-quality education to learn, grow and contribute to their community.

Ontario students continue to lead the way in education excellence, supported by the province's world-class schools. Investments in education will continue to build on student achievement and integrate the higher-order skills that young students need to succeed in the 21st-century global labour market.

McKinsey & Company Cites Ontario's Education System as One of the Best in the World

In the 2010 McKinsey report "How the World's Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better," Ontario was recognized as being near the top among 20 school systems that "have registered significant, sustained, and widespread student outcome gains." It was rated as "great" and on a trajectory to "excellent." Then, in a subsequent McKinsey report titled "Capturing the Leadership Premium" (2010), Ontario was one of eight systems selected for review as a result of strong performance on international assessments and "good practices in school leadership."

Early Learning

The government's commitment to giving Ontario's youngest students the best start to their education will ensure all children start with the same firm footing. It will also help build the foundation for a strong workforce and economy.

The government continues to build on its vision for an integrated early years program and services that meet the needs of Ontario's children and parents. The Ontario Early Years Policy Framework focuses on ensuring that children from birth to age six have the best possible start in life, through such measures as the successful implementation of full-day kindergarten and protection of the child care system.

In September 2012, full-day kindergarten was available in 1,700 schools, benefiting 122,000 children, and next fall the program will reach about 184,000 children in 2,600 schools across Ontario. When fully implemented in September 2014, the program will be available to all of Ontario's four- and five-year-olds, or approximately 265,000 children.

Chart 1.18: Full-Day Kindergarten Implementation. Click for an accessible full description.

In the 2012 Budget, the government announced additional funding of $90 million in 2012–13, $68 million in 2013–14 and $84 million in 2014–15 to support child care operators, parents and children to seamlessly transition into full-day kindergarten. This has been an important part of the early years vision. The government is announcing an additional $39 million in 2015–16 to support the child care system.

As part of the initiatives to modernize the child care sector, a new funding formula and funding framework were recently implemented. These new tools will allocate provincial child care funds in a way that better responds to service demands and will allow municipalities to better manage the system at the local level.

Student Achievement: Closing the Gaps

Better student achievement will give all young people the tools they need to succeed in the future labour market.

Ontario's Students Continue to Excel

Today, class sizes are smaller, provincial assessment results are up and more students than ever are getting their high school diploma. The 2012 provincial assessment results released by the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) show that Ontario students continue to excel. The results show that:

  • 70 per cent of students in Grades 3 and 6 are meeting or exceeding the provincial standard (a "B" grade) — up from 54 per cent nine years ago;
  • over 50,000 more students in Grades 3, 6 and 9 are meeting or exceeding the provincial standard in reading, writing and math compared to 2002–03; and
  • the high school graduation rate increased to 83 per cent in 2011–12 from 68 per cent in 2003–04. That means 115,500 more students have graduated than otherwise would have, had the rate remained at the 2003–04 level.

Building on its record of success, the government will work with the education sector to broaden its measurement of success to include increased focus on higher-order skills. These include character, citizenship, communication, collaboration and teamwork, critical thinking and problem-solving, creativity and innovation and entrepreneurialism, and connection to postsecondary education and careers.

The government is providing funding to support targeted approaches that focus on closing the achievement gap among struggling students. Research shows that quality learning experiences for children in the summer can narrow the gap in developing those important literacy and numeracy skills that are critical for success later in life. The government is providing $12.6 million over three years, starting in 2013–14, to support the expansion of summer learning programs. These programs give primary students who live in lower income communities and are experiencing academic challenges, the opportunity to improve their reading, writing and math skills over the summer months. These programs have proven to be effective in reversing summer learning loss for participating students.

In the 2013–14 school year, the government will continue its investment in projects that support the implementation of the First Nation, Métis and Inuit Education Policy Framework. The goal of the framework is to increase Aboriginal student achievement and help close the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students. The government will continue to explore strategies to support the successful transition of First Nation students from on-reserve to provincially funded schools. In addition to the over $45 million in ongoing support, the government will provide $5 million per year to improve student achievement for Aboriginal students.

Postsecondary Education

To make postsecondary education more accessible, Ontario has made major investments in student financial aid. In 2012–13, the Ontario Student Assistance Program issued about $1.5 billion in grants and loans to students. Through programs such as the 30% Off Ontario Tuition grant, and the new tuition-fee framework, the government is helping eligible students pay for tuition. See the section entitled Postsecondary Education in Section A: A Plan for Jobs and Growth, in this chapter for additional details.

Youth Jobs Strategy

A fair society helps to ensure that its young people are positioned for success in the labour market.

Periods of youth unemployment can have long-term social and economic consequences, such as persistently lower wages and a higher likelihood of becoming unemployed later in life.

That is why the government is proposing to invest $295 million over the next two years in a comprehensive Youth Jobs Strategy to provide employment opportunities, entrepreneurship and innovation. The strategy includes:

  • Ontario Youth Employment Fund to expand employment opportunities for youth across Ontario;
  • Ontario Youth Entrepreneurship Fund to support the next generation of entrepreneurs through mentorship, startup capital and outreach;
  • Ontario Youth Innovation Fund to support the skills needed to lead and manage industrial research, development and commercialization as well as support young entrepreneurs at universities and colleges; and
  • Business-Labour Connectivity and Training Fund to promote partnerships among business, labour, educators and youth to identify and solve skills development issues.

See the section entitled Ontario's Youth Jobs Strategy in Section A: A Plan for Jobs and Growth in this chapter for additional details.

Support from Early Years to Adulthood

The government supports Ontario's young people through programs and services from world-class schools to programs that help them move into employment.

Chart 1.19: Support for Avery from Early Years to Adulthood. Click for an accessible full description.

Intergenerational Fairness

Like countries around the world, Ontario invested in stimulus and public services in response to the global recession. While this helped to protect jobs and the economy, it led to deficits and higher net debt.

The people of Ontario expect their government to provide high-quality public services, especially during a recession and periods of slow economic growth. However, there is also an obligation to ensure that the cost of these supports does not lead to unsustainable debt levels and high interest costs for future generations.

The government is committed to eliminating the deficit by 2017–18 and then reducing the net debt-to-GDP ratio to the pre-recession level of 27 per cent. This will help keep interest on debt at a manageable level and protect future generations from rising interest costs, which could otherwise crowd out spending on government priorities. Taking a balanced approach to eliminating the deficit and reducing net debt-to-GDP will help strengthen the economy so it can create jobs. It is good fiscal policy and it is fair to future generations.

Increasing Opportunities

While Ontario is a great place to live and work, not everyone is benefiting from the province's prosperity. The global recession caused hardship for many individuals, families and businesses. Some people continue to struggle with the effects of poverty.

The government is taking action to strengthen Ontario as a fair society and increase opportunities for everyone. It is reaffirming its commitment to reducing poverty, building on the foundation of its first Poverty Reduction Strategy.

It is transforming social assistance, with initial steps to enable recipients to keep more of what they earn, and improve their prospects for employment.

It is continuing to provide and enhance supports for families. It is also supporting Aboriginal people and protecting the most vulnerable.

These initiatives will help strengthen the foundations of a fair society — where all people have the same firm footing, can begin to reach their potential, and can work, prosper and contribute to Ontario's strong economy.

Reducing Poverty

The government is committed to helping the people of Ontario share the benefits of this great province. Building a prosperous and fair Ontario means addressing poverty.

In 2008, the government introduced a comprehensive five-year Poverty Reduction Strategy that set a target to reduce child poverty by 25 per cent.

The Strategy included the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) for low- to moderate-income families and introducing full-day kindergarten to give children a stronger start in school. The government is also providing enhanced tax relief and over 90,000 lower-income people are no longer paying Ontario Personal Income Tax.

The Strategy has lifted about 40,000 children out of poverty. Without the Poverty Reduction Strategy, an estimated 16.7 per cent of Ontario children would have been living in low-income families in 2010. As a result of the Strategy, the actual child poverty rate was 13.8 per cent.

Chart 1.20: The Poverty Reduction Strategy Helps Lower Child Poverty. Click for an accessible full description.

The Province is deepening its commitment to reducing poverty by taking a cross-government approach to developing the second Poverty Reduction Strategy, under the leadership of a new Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction. The new Poverty Reduction Strategy will build on current efforts and will be released in late 2013.

This Cabinet Committee will also lead the government's transformation of social assistance so it is better focused on helping more people find employment and providing recipients with improved financial security.

Transforming Social Assistance

In 2010, the government launched the largest review of the Province's social assistance system in over 20 years1. The Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario, led by Frances Lankin and Munir A. Sheikh, released its report, Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario, in October 2012. It contains 108 recommendations for transforming social assistance.

The Lankin-Sheikh Commission

The Commission's report includes recommendations intended to:

  • enhance the participation of people with disabilities in employment through an emphasis on ability — not disability — and providing earlier and improved employment supports;
  • consolidate the delivery of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works through municipalities and First Nation communities, and improve the integration of human services at the local level;
  • simplify the social assistance benefits structure to reduce rules and administrative costs;
  • establish a transparent framework for setting rates that balances adequacy, fairness and incentives to work;
  • improve incentives for employment and "making work pay" by providing a disability supplement and enhanced children's benefits and health benefits for those with low incomes who do not receive social assistance; and
  • improve the accountability and transparency of social assistance programs.

Responding to the Lankin-Sheikh Commission

The Commission's recommendations provide strong advice on transforming services, benefits and delivery of social assistance in Ontario. In 2013–14, the government will take initial steps to implement key recommendations from the Commission's report. These changes will help recipients keep more of what they earn, move into jobs and improve their financial security. These initial changes will also set the stage for long-term transformation of social assistance, as a cornerstone of the new Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Successful transformation will take time to achieve. The government will start discussions with recipients, municipalities, delivery partners and others to set priorities and work through the choices required for transformation.

The government will also engage in separate and substantive discussions with First Nation communities to ensure their needs are properly understood and appropriately addressed.

"In these challenging economic times, some may be tempted to say that social assistance is not a priority, or that we cannot afford even to start down the path of reform. We could not disagree more. With labour shortages looming, helping everyone achieve their potential is simply the right thing to do — for individual Ontarians, for business, for the provincial economy and for a government seeking to secure future sources of revenue."

Business Advisory Panel on Income Security Reform, October 2012.

Helping Social Assistance Recipients into Employment

Removing barriers and increasing opportunities for everyone to participate in the workforce is good for the economy, as it provides the labour market with underutilized talent. This includes people with disabilities who may have the capacity and aspiration for employment, but are lacking the supports they need for success.

"For most of us, a multitude of benefits flows from finding a good job or productively contributing to our communities: increased independence, a sense of wellbeing, new networks, further opportunities, and the ability to plan for the future. For people who are able to work, employment is also a key route to escaping poverty. This is why the focus of our review was on removing barriers and increasing opportunities for people to work."

Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario, "Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario," October 2012.

Earnings Exemption

Ontario Works and ODSP recipients will be able to keep the first $200 of employment earnings each month before their social assistance benefits are reduced. This change will reduce barriers to employment and give social assistance recipients better support for gaining access to employment. Introducing a $200 monthly earnings exemption will make it easier for those recipients who face multiple barriers to employment to gain an initial foothold in the labour force. It will also significantly improve the incomes of 57,000 recipients who currently have employment earnings.

Earnings Exemption
Current Effective September 2013
  • Social assistance benefits are reduced by 50 cents for every dollar of employment earnings
  • The earnings exemption will allow for up to $200 per month of employment earnings before social assistance benefits are reduced.
  • Every dollar of employment earnings above $200 will reduce social assistance benefits by 50 cents.
Improving Employment-Related Benefits

Currently, social assistance programs offer a myriad of benefits to help recipients prepare for and obtain employment. The Commission recognized that each benefit has unique eligibility rules that add unnecessary complexity to the system. The government will work with partners to develop a simpler, more flexible benefit structure that is effective in helping people get the employment support they need.

Income from Self-Employment

Self-employment has been a growing part of the labour market and represents an important alternative to traditional employment for some social assistance recipients. Effective September 2013, the government will remove barriers for Ontario Works recipients who want to pursue self-employment by treating such income the same as employment earnings. With this change, self-employment income will be treated the same in both the Ontario Works and ODSP programs.

Earnings of Full-Time High School Students

Currently, postsecondary and most high school students under the age of 18 are able to keep their earnings from part-time employment. To encourage more students to graduate from high school, the government will harmonize rules so that more high school students in families receiving social assistance are able to keep their earnings from part-time employment. These changes, effective September 2013, will mean that full-time high school students over the age of 18 will not be penalized if they work part time.

Integrating Employment and Training Services

The Commission found that social assistance recipients, and others at risk of becoming dependent on social assistance, need better access to integrated training and employment services to achieve better employment outcomes.

Improving access to training and employment services for social assistance recipients is part of the government's plan announced in the 2012 Budget to integrate employment and training services across government. To support this plan, the government will engage municipalities, First Nation communities and employment service providers on better ways to link social assistance recipients to Employment Ontario.

Engaging with Employers and Other Partners

The government will work closely with the private sector, delivery partners and people who have first-hand experience receiving social assistance or living in poverty. This work will focus on improving employment outcomes for people with disabilities and other social assistance recipients facing multiple barriers to employment.

The Province has announced that the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario will move from the Ministry of Community and Social Services to the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment. This will allow the government to better work with Ontario's businesses, organizations and communities to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

The government will also work with corporate leaders to establish a Partnership Council on Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities, to champion the hiring of people with disabilities.

In addition, the government is engaging with employers and service delivery partners in a series of roundtables to improve social assistance employment services and supports for those who are able to work, and to better connect clients, including people with disabilities, to the workforce.

"Social assistance as it is now sidelines people with disabilities and condemns too many people to a life of poverty and isolation. We heard from recipients across the province that they want to work, and are able to work, but they need the right support to reach their goals. Putting people on a path to a better life reduces poverty and strengthens our communities, contributing to greater economic prosperity for all Ontarians."

Frances Lankin, Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario news release, October 24, 2012.

"Transformational change will take time but there are priority steps that can happen now, including moving quickly to establish a Provincial Partnership with corporate leaders to champion the hiring of people with disabilities. Throughout the review we engaged with corporate leaders who are already taking action to improve the employment prospects of people with disabilities, and are willing to partner with the government to achieve real change. This early win, combined with other initiatives to support people with disabilities, could have dramatic results."

Munir A. Sheikh, Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario news release, October 24, 2012.

Improving Financial Security

The transition to work can be made easier for social assistance recipients by improving their financial security, which increases their ability to deal with adversity. Greater financial security also promotes greater independence and stability. As initial steps, the government is increasing benefit rates and will simplify and harmonize some of the system's complex rules.

Increasing Benefit Rates

Since the government took office in 2003, social assistance rates have increased by about 15 per cent. This year, the government will increase social assistance rates by one per cent for adult Ontario Works recipients and people with disabilities receiving ODSP benefits.

The Commission identified as a priority the need to increase rates for Ontario Works single adults without children, a group that experiences the lowest incomes among social assistance recipients. As an initial step, single Ontario Works adults without children will receive an additional top-up of $14 per month. With both the top-up and the one per cent increase, these recipients will receive an increase of $20 per month, or more than three per cent.

Combined, these changes will improve the incomes of all recipients and begin to reduce the disparity in rates between ODSP and Ontario Works recipients. Social assistance rate increases will take effect in September 2013 for ODSP and in October 2013 for Ontario Works.

The Commission also recommended the development of benchmarks to support a consistent method for setting social assistance rates in the future. The government will begin the information collection and analysis necessary to develop these benchmarks.

The government will consider other recommendations of the Commission as it continues to pursue social assistance transformation.

Increasing Ontario Works Asset Limits

The limits for liquid assets2, including cash, will increase for single adults receiving Ontario Works from $606 to $2,500, and from $1,043 to $5,000 for couples. Currently, individuals must deplete most of their assets to qualify for Ontario Works. Higher asset limits will help recipients become more financially secure and are an initial step towards aligning asset limits in Ontario Works and ODSP. This change will take effect in September 2013.

The changes to asset limits will also be evaluated to determine their impact on the number of people accessing social assistance and leaving social assistance with improved financial resources.

Simplifying Asset Rules

The government will remove the restriction on the value of a primary vehicle so that Ontario Works recipients can retain a vehicle they may need for employment. Under current rules, Ontario Works recipients are restricted to owning a primary vehicle valued at less than $10,000. This change will also harmonize Ontario Works and ODSP rules regarding the value of a primary vehicle.

First Nation and northern communities administering Ontario Works will have greater flexibility to determine which assets recipients should be able to keep without impacting their eligibility for social assistance. Low-income people living in First Nation and northern communities face unique challenges in improving self-sufficiency. Social assistance rules must be flexible enough so that recipients can make use of assets, such as snowmobiles, boats and hunting equipment, to participate in cultural activities and pursue employment.

Ontario Works recipients will be allowed to receive gifts of up to $6,000 per year. This change will help improve the financial stability of Ontario Works recipients and will align Ontario Works and ODSP rules on allowable gifts.

Changes to asset rules will take effect in September 2013.

Accessing Assistance for Medical Travel

Currently, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care's Northern Health Travel Grant program helps residents of northern Ontario with the costs of travel and accommodation to access necessary medical services. Social assistance also provides recipients with funding to cover medical travel costs.

The Commission identified that the two programs are difficult to navigate and reconcile as a result of different administrative practices and eligible costs. To address this concern, the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care will work together to introduce a simplified process for accessing and administering medical travel supports for social assistance recipients living in northern Ontario.

Supporting Families

The most effective way to reduce poverty and improve financial security is through employment. That is why the government continues to provide programs that help support people while they work. However, some families are facing challenges in maintaining secure income from employment.

Ontario provides various forms of support for low- to moderate-income workers so they are better able to participate in the labour force. For example, Ontario has lowered the Ontario Personal Income Tax rate on the first $39,723 of income, eliminating the tax for over 90,000 lower-income people.

Ontario also provides targeted support for low- to moderate-income people through the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) and has enhanced refundable tax credits. These supports, along with federal tax benefits, enhance the incomes of low- to moderate-income people and help provide a more stable income base for those that may experience earnings uncertainties. Since these benefits are available outside of social assistance, they also help reduce the financial barriers to leaving social assistance.

Chart 1.21: Government Transfers Improve Family Income. Click for an accessible full description.

However, more needs to be done to improve supports for individuals and families experiencing low and insecure employment earnings. An enhanced earned income supplement provided through the federal Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) would help more low-income individuals and families participate in the labour force.

The government will call on the federal government to work with Ontario to enhance access to earned income supplements.

Enhancing the Ontario Child Benefit

The Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) provides financial support to one million children in about 500,000 low- to moderate-income families and has helped to lift 40,000 children out of poverty.

As announced in the 2012 Budget, the government is proposing to increase the maximum annual OCB to $1,210 per eligible child in July 2013 and to $1,310 in July 2014. Together, these increases would extend the OCB benefits to an additional 90,000 children in 46,000 families.

Minimum-Wage Review

The government believes both employers and workers need to plan for their financial future in a way that ensures wages and businesses remain competitive. This is especially important for minimum-wage earners and the small businesses that employ many of these individuals in the hospitality and service sectors. In most other provinces, an independent panel provides advice or there is a formula that adjusts the minimum wage.

The government is proposing to establish an Advisory Panel to provide advice on how to adjust Ontario's minimum wages. The Panel would be composed of an independent chair and representatives from business, worker and youth groups, and would report back to the government within six months from the date the Budget would pass. Following consultations with interested parties and advice from the Panel members, the Chair would provide recommendations to the government on how Ontario should determine future changes to the minimum wage.

Protecting Jobs for Caregivers

The government has introduced the proposed Employment Standards Amendment Act (Leaves to Help Families), 2013. It would, if passed, recognize the importance of family and job security, and would build on the existing Family Medical Leave by creating three new unpaid job-protected leaves. These leaves would allow employees to care for sick or injured loved ones, or cope with the illness or loss of a child, without the fear of losing their job.

Workplace Inspections

Ontario is helping to ensure fairness in the workplace by enhancing the enforcement of the Employment Standards Act, 2000. The government is investing ongoing funding of $3 million, beginning in 2013–14, to hire additional officers and staff to provide proactive inspections. Proactive inspections educate and encourage compliance so that vulnerable workers receive the money they are owed.

Supporting Opportunities for Aboriginal People

The government recognizes that improved social conditions and economic opportunities are essential to ensuring Aboriginal people can work and thrive.

Working together is the only way to realize real change for the next generation of First Nation, Métis and Inuit people in Ontario. The government remains committed to meaningful participation by Aboriginal people both on- and off-reserve in the decision-making that affects them.

As part of social assistance transformation, the government will engage in separate and substantive discussions with First Nation communities and other Aboriginal groups to ensure their needs are properly understood and addressed. Also, First Nation communities administering Ontario Works will have greater flexibility with asset rules in order to recognize the circumstances in First Nation communities.

Housing Supports for First Nation Communities

A new transitional fund to support the housing needs of First Nation communities was developed after engagement with First Nation communities and designed to recognize their unique needs. The new fund will expand eligibility for housing supports to all low-income people in First Nation communities, not just those receiving social assistance.

First Nation Policing

The government is committed to helping make Ontario's First Nation communities safer and is providing annual funding of $4 million to continue to support 40 front-line officer positions in First Nation police services across Ontario.

Aboriginal Education

Ontario is committed to ensuring all students have the same opportunities. The government will continue to invest in projects that help close the student achievement gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students, including support for the implementation of the First Nation, Métis and Inuit Education Policy Framework. The government will provide an additional $5 million per year to improve student achievement for Aboriginal students.

Aboriginal Children and Youth Strategy

Ontario is working with First Nation, Métis and Inuit people to transform services to better meet the needs of Aboriginal children and young people on- and off-reserve. Working with Aboriginal partners, Ontario will develop a multi-year Aboriginal Children and Youth Strategy. Responding to the recommendations of the Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare and of former Ontario Aboriginal Advisor, John Beaucage, the strategy will focus on building community-driven, integrated and culturally appropriate supports to help Aboriginal children and young people grow up healthy and reach their full potential.

Support for Vulnerable Populations

The government is taking action to support Ontario's most vulnerable so that they can more fully participate in their communities. Actions to directly support vulnerable groups include improved rehabilitation services for children and initiatives to promote safer and stronger communities. The government will also work with partners to better promote Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSPs).

Children's Rehabilitation Services

The government will make targeted investments in children's treatment centres, support a pilot program to help children across the province transition into school, including full-day kindergarten, and expand the family-centred Children's Rehabilitation Information System to five children's treatment centres in northern Ontario. These actions will be supported by a $5 million annual investment and complemented by ongoing work to improve the integration and coordination of services to achieve improved outcomes for children.

Developmental Services

The government remains committed to improving supports for adults with developmental disabilities and their families. Over $42 million per year in additional funding will be invested to help families and adults in urgent need, reduce waitlist pressures and better support those with complex needs. The government will also work to transition young adults currently receiving youth residential services to more appropriate adult services and supports.

Registered Disability Savings Plans

Registered Disability Savings Plans are an important tax-supported savings vehicle that can help families save for children and adults with disabilities, and help people with disabilities plan for their future needs.

The Ministry of Community and Social Services and other ministries will work with community partners to promote RDSPs and encourage ODSP recipients and other people with disabilities to establish RDSPs. This will help improve the low take-up rates of this valuable savings vehicle.

Benefiting from Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSPs)

Once established, the federal government will deposit up to $1,000 per year into the RDSP account of a low-income person with a disability through the Canada Disability Savings Bond.

The federal government will also match annual contributions at a ratio of 3:1 for the first $500 and 2:1 for the next $1,000 through the Canada Disability Savings Grant.

The Ontario government has exempted RDSPs from impacting eligibility for social assistance and other income-tested benefits to allow people with disabilities to fully benefit from RDSPs.

The government recognizes that a number of adults with disabilities face challenges in establishing an RDSP because their capacity to enter into a contract is in doubt.

The Law Commission of Ontario is currently undertaking a broad-based consultation and review of legal capacity, decision-making and guardianship law in Ontario. The government has asked the Law Commission to undertake an additional review that would focus on how adults with developmental or mental disabilities might be better enabled to participate in these plans. The Law Commission has agreed to do so and to provide recommendations to the Attorney General on a priority basis.

Building Safer and Stronger Communities

Strong communities contribute to the prosperity of Ontario. The government is taking action to strengthen community leadership, help ensure Ontario's communities and public spaces are safe, and promote access to justice for low-income families and other vulnerable groups.

Building Safer Communities

Permanent annual funding of $12.5 million will be provided for the Provincial Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (PAVIS) and the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS). These initiatives help address guns and gang violence in Toronto and across Ontario, and improve public safety in communities by focusing on intervention, prevention, enforcement and community mobilization through strategies such as dedicated neighbourhood police officers.

Funding Legal Aid

As part of the government's commitment to social justice and a fair society, additional funding of $30 million over three years will be provided to Legal Aid Ontario. This funding will improve access to justice and enhance outcomes for low-income families, victims of domestic violence and other vulnerable groups by strengthening the capacity of Family Law Service Centres and other community and legal clinics across Ontario to respond to evolving needs, and ensure services are sustainable. This is in addition to the $150 million investment in Legal Aid Ontario over four years announced in September 2009.

Securing Retirement Incomes

In a fair society, people should have options to save for retirement so that they can retire with peace of mind.

Ontario is committed to a strong and secure retirement income system to help ensure that today's workers maintain a comparable standard of living when they retire.

Evidence from pension experts, financial leaders and research institutes continues to show that many moderate- to higher-income Canadians could face inadequate incomes in retirement. This is due to increasing longevity, lower personal savings, increased personal debt and decreasing employment pension plan coverage.

Many people in Ontario rely on employment pension plans for a significant portion of their retirement income. Coverage, however, has been declining in recent years and many defined benefit plans for private-sector employees are closed to new entrants. There are calls for new, more flexible retirement savings options that would enhance coverage, improve retirement income security, and enable plan sponsors to better manage plan costs.

A recent report released by CIBC World Markets Inc. warns about these trends. Its research found that, in the absence of policy change, nearly six million younger workers in Canada will experience a significant decline in living standards when they retire.

"A growing gap will leave close to six million Canadians facing a more than 20% drop in living standards as they leave the workforce, even accounting for the savings on some expenditures that retirement brings. If left unchecked, current trends in pensions, government programs and savings rates will, particularly for younger cohorts, be insufficient to allow today's working Canadians to realize the retirement lifestyle that their elders have achieved."

CIBC World Markets Inc., "Canadians' Retirement Future: Mind the Gap," 2013.

Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Enhancement

The original intent of the CPP was to give workers a basic and predictable level of income in retirement. Its unique features make it an attractive vehicle to strengthen the retirement income system.

Unique Features of the CPP

The CPP:

  • provides a secure and predictable defined benefit pension to virtually all working Canadians;
  • offers benefits that are fully indexed to inflation
  • does not carry the risk of bankruptcy or insolvency of the employer;
  • is fully portable across Canada, supporting a modern and mobile labour force; and
  • has very low administrative costs as a share of plan expenditures compared to most employment pension plans.

Ontario will continue to take a leadership role to advocate for a modest enhancement to the CPP. Ontario looks forward to working with other provinces and the federal government to agree on a plan to introduce a modest, fully funded enhancement to the CPP. See Chapter III: Federal-Provincial Relations for additional details.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans (PRPPs)

Pooled registered pension plans are a new type of tax-advantaged individual retirement savings account. They are intended to make it easier to save for retirement by providing employees and self-employed individuals with a simple, low-cost savings vehicle that is professionally managed and portable.

Participation in a PRPP would be optional for employers or self-employed individuals. These plans would be professionally managed by licensed third-party administrators, such as regulated financial institutions, and investments would be pooled to reduce costs and improve returns.

The government will be consulting with interested parties to determine how PRPPs should be implemented, before introducing legislation. It will be important to ensure, for example, that members are adequately protected and low-cost objectives are met.

Target Benefit Plans

The government will also develop a framework for single-employer target benefit plans — another innovative retirement income model.

Target benefit plans have the advantages of both fixed costs and professional asset management. Contributions are set at a level intended to provide a specified pension. If experience demonstrates the contributions are insufficient to fund the target benefit, pension benefits of retirees and active members are adjusted to ensure the plan remains sustainable.

Endnotes:

1 Ontario has two main social assistance programs: the Ontario Disability Support Program for people with disabilities and Ontario Works for individuals and families in temporary financial need. Social assistance programs represent the most significant direct transfers to those with low incomes, with total expenditures of about $8 billion per year.

2 Liquid assets include cash, bank deposits, investments, unlocked registered retirement savings plans and secondary vehicles as defined by the Ontario Works Act, 1997, and Ontario Disability Support Program Act, 1997.

Chart Descriptions

Chart 1.18: Full-Day Kindergarten Implementation

In the 2011 school year, about 50,000 children were enrolled in full-day kindergarten. As the program is implemented across the province, the number of children rose to 122,000 in 2012. Enrolment is projected to rise to about 184,000 in 2013 and approximately 265,000 in September 2014, when the program is fully implemented.

Return to Chart 1.18

Chart 1.19: Support for Avery from Early Years to Adulthood

This chart shows the Ontario government supports for an Ontarian from early years to adulthood.

Under Age 6

  • Early learning and literacy programs
  • Quality child care, including child care subsidies
  • Full-day kindergarten
  • Children’s Activity Tax Credit (under 16)
  • Healthy Child Development Programs
  • Dental services for low-income families: Healthy Smiles Ontario and Children in Need of Treatment programs (until 17)
  • Ontario Child Benefit (under 18)
  • 18 publicly funded vaccines starting at 2 months of age

Age 6 to 13 (Elementary Education)

  • 91 per cent of primary classes with 20 or fewer students
  • Increasing levels of literacy and numeracy achievement

Age 13 to 18 (Secondary Education)

  • Ontario’s Student Success Strategy
  • Learning options including expanded co-operative education, Specialist High Skills Majors, dual credits and e-learning programs

Age 18 to 24 (Postsecondary Education)

  • Access grants, 30% Off Ontario Tuition grant, a new tuition fee framework and Co-op Education Tax Credits
  • Ontario Summer Jobs Strategy

Age 15 to 29

  • Youth Jobs Strategy (employment, entrepreneurship and innovation)
  • Employment Ontario Services
  • Apprenticeship supports

Return to Chart 1.19

Chart 1.20: The Poverty Reduction Strategy Helps Lower Child Poverty

This bar chart shows that the government's Poverty Reduction Strategy is helping to lower child poverty. For 2010, the poverty rate for children was 26.1 per cent before taxes and transfers. After accounting for the impact of taxes and transfers, the poverty rate for 2010 declined to 16.7 per cent. The impact of the poverty reduction strategy was to further lower the child poverty rate to 13.8 per cent.

Return to Chart 1.20

Chart 1.21: Government Transfers Improve Family Income

This chart shows that a single parent with a child, working full time, and earning the minimum wage would earn a gross income of $19,988 in 2012. With government transfers, the parent’s total income would grow by $6,043 in children’s benefits and $2,535 in other tax benefits and credits, to a total of $28,566. These government transfers represent 30 per cent of this family’s income.

Return to Chart 1.21