Ontario is a great place to live and work. During the global recession, the people of Ontario worked together to protect our schools and hospitals and to invest in modern infrastructure. We worked together to protect and create jobs.
The Province enjoys strong economic fundamentals and our economy is recovering after the global recession. We have a highly educated, healthy and diverse workforce to support greater prosperity. Tax reform in recent years has turned Ontario into one of the most investment-friendly places to do business.
The people of Ontario expect their government to provide high quality public services. They also expect the cost of these services not to lead to unsustainable debt levels and high interest costs for future generations. That is why 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.
We are taking a balanced approach to eliminating the deficit. Across-the-board cuts would hurt Ontario’s sensitive economic recovery. Keeping growth in program spending at low levels allows us to make smart investments for Ontario’s long-term prosperity while balancing the budget.
The government’s role in job creation is to encourage the right environment for businesses and entrepreneurs to take risks, make investments, create jobs and drive innovation.
The single most important thing the government can do to secure Ontario’s prosperity is to eliminate the deficit. The deficit for 2012–13 is now estimated to be $9.8 billion — a $5 billion improvement compared with the 2012 Budget forecast.
The fiscal year that just ended marks the fourth year in a row that Ontario has reported a lower deficit than forecast — the only government in Canada to achieve this level of success. It also marks the second year in a row where the rate of growth in program spending is projected to be less than 1 per cent. The deficit projection for 2013–14 is $11.7 billion, an improvement of more than $1 billion from the projection in last year’s Budget.
However, since the 2012 Budget, expectations for global economic growth have weakened. European economies are in recession and the growth in emerging-market economies has slowed. Ontario still relies heavily on the U.S. economy as a major export market and the province faces significant challenges as a result of a high dollar and low productivity growth.
Acknowledging these challenges and working with business, labour and other key partners to deal with them head-on will position Ontario for stronger growth.
The government’s economic plan will help Ontario face these challenges and stimulate growth:
The new government is committed to helping all Ontarians succeed, no matter where they live — in the north, in rural communities or in urban centres. All of us should be able to thrive and enjoy a high standard of living in our vibrant communities.
Ontario’s economic performance is stronger when everyone has the opportunity to be gainfully employed, to participate in the life of their communities and to contribute to the prosperity of our province.
The government’s plan for increasing prosperity and building a fair society involves continued investment in health care, education and the environment, and transforming social assistance. This transformation will help more people find employment and provide better financial security. The government will also help more people save for retirement. Ontario will improve opportunities for youth, people with disabilities and Aboriginal people, and it will protect the most vulnerable.
The new Ontario government is proposing to remove barriers to employment and improving financial security for people who receive social assistance:
Ontario is transforming health care services so that more people receive the care they need on a more timely basis.
In the 2011 Budget, the government introduced the Ontario Trillium Benefit (OTB), which combined payments of three different tax credits to help people pay their bills as they arrive. Some people have asked for the ability to choose between monthly payments and one annual lump sum. The 2013 Budget announces this option.
Eliminating the deficit is the single most important step the Province can take to grow the economy and create jobs. The government is strongly committed to eliminating the deficit by 2017–18 — and to lowering the net debt-to-GDP ratio to the pre-recession level of 27 per cent once it balances the budget.
Ontario is beating its fiscal targets, due in part to its transformation of how it delivers public services. Over the last year, the government began moving forward with about half of the recommendations made by the Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services. This year, the government will continue to move forward with a total of 60 per cent of the recommendations.
The government is also appointing a technical panel to identify savings in business support programs and refundable tax credits as recommended by the Jobs and Prosperity Council. Businesses in Ontario enjoy a very competitive tax environment. The technical panel will report back in six months with recommendations that will include restructuring, discontinuing, maintaining or replacing some credits with grants to ensure they are producing effective results that create jobs.
Ontario is also working closely with the federal government to close tax loopholes and to combat the underground economy. These are the right things to do to ensure everyone is paying their fair share to protect public services and eliminate the deficit.
Ontario is a province with tremendous diversity and a strong economic foundation. In the face of global economic challenges, we continue to outperform many parts of the world.
As the Province moves forward through a sensitive economic recovery, we are taking a balanced approach to eliminate the deficit and make smart investments for long-term economic growth. Eliminating the deficit strengthens our economy and helps protect public services, like schools and hospitals, which matter to people. These investments will help Ontario seize opportunities to compete in the global economy and create jobs here at home.
The government is effectively managing the rate of growth in spending to keep Ontario on track to eliminate the deficit by 2017–18. It is also making strategic investments to strengthen the economy.
The new government is committed to helping all Ontarians succeed. Taking a balanced approach to strengthening the economy will help build a prosperous and fair Ontario for all.
[Original signed by]
The Honourable Charles Sousa
Minister of Finance