Introduction

Collectively, Ontarians are helping build a better future for their families every day. Across the province, people are caring for loved ones who are aging, helping their children get ahead in school, taking additional courses to upgrade their skills, and building new companies that will be at the forefront of global innovation.

They are working hard to get ahead and stay ahead, but often face challenges including rising costs of living — costs that can stretch monthly budgets to the limit.

With a growing economy and a balanced budget, the Ontario government is making investments in key services like health care and education that matter most to people, while at the same time lowering costs for necessities like electricity and child care. This includes:

  • Lowering household electricity bills on average by 25 per cent, beginning this summer;
  • Starting on January 1, 2018, Ontario will launch OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare — providing universal drug coverage to all children across the province aged 24 years and under, regardless of family income;
  • Helping 100,000 more children access affordable, quality licensed child care;
  • Transforming the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to make average tuition free for more than 210,000 Ontario students and reduce the cost for many more;
  • Providing better supports for families and caregivers; and
  • Introducing a Fair Housing Plan to increase affordability for both buyers and renters and to support stability in the housing market.

The government is also focused on strengthening consumer protection in a number of areas, including financial services and pension regulation, and auto insurance.

Helping with Everyday Costs

Delivering the Largest Single Reduction to Electricity Rates in Ontario’s History

Electricity is an essential part of people’s daily lives. For decades, Ontario enjoyed one of the largest, most impressive and up-to-date electricity systems in North America. However, years of underinvestment by successive governments led to a system that was outdated and unreliable — resulting in instances of blackouts and brownouts.

The system was due for major upgrades, and since 2003, more than $50 billion has been invested in electricity generation and grid infrastructure across the province, to ensure Ontarians benefit from a cleaner, more modern and more reliable system. In addition, $12.8 billion is being invested to refurbish the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, to secure affordable, reliable, emissions-free power. Ontario also became the first jurisdiction in North America to end the use of coal-fired electricity generation, choosing instead to produce more clean power.

The much-needed rebuilding of an aging and unreliable electricity system that depended on expensive electricity imports and dirty coal resulted in rapidly rising rates for many people across Ontario. The government recognizes that rates rose too much and too quickly, and that people want substantial relief from high electricity bills that will last.

That is why, starting this summer, Ontario’s proposed Fair Hydro Plan would reduce electricity bills by 25 per cent on average for eligible households. Approximately 500,000 small businesses and farms would also benefit. ‎Low-income Ontarians and those living in eligible rural, remote or on‑reserve First Nation communities would receive even greater reductions to their electricity bills.

As part of this plan, rate increases over the next four years would be held to the rate of inflation for residential customers and eligible farm and small business consumers. These measures also include an eight-per-cent rebate on electricity bills equal to the provincial portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax, effective January 1, 2017.

Taken together, these changes would deliver the largest reduction to electricity rates in Ontario’s history.

Reducing Electricity Rates by 25 Per Cent

Hydro worker in a lift, fixing electrical wires
Ontario is reducing electricity bills by 25 per cent on average to make everyday life more affordable.

Through the following measures, Ontario’s proposed Fair Hydro Plan would reduce electricity bills by 25 per cent on average for eligible households. Approximately 500,000 small businesses and farms would also benefit.

  • Recognizing that existing electricity infrastructure is expected to last for decades to come, the Province would refinance the cost of those capital investments to ensure that system costs are more equitably distributed over time.
  • A number of important electricity support programs would now be funded by the Province rather than by ratepayers, which would reduce electricity costs for all consumers. These new measures would cost up to $2.5 billion over the next three years.

These changes would allocate costs more fairly and ensure they are not disproportionately placed on the shoulders of today’s electricity ratepayers.

Providing Targeted and Expanded Relief for Rural, Remote, Low-Income and First Nation Customers

Providing Further Support for Rural and Remote Communities

The Rural or Remote Electricity Rate Protection (RRRP) program currently provides a rate subsidy to eligible rural and remote residential customers who face higher distribution costs compared to those in urban areas.

The Province intends to expand the RRRP to provide distribution delivery charge relief to a total of about 800,000 customers served by local distribution companies (LDCs) with the highest rates, including Hydro One R2 and R1 rate classes (residential low and medium density areas, respectively), Northern Ontario Wires Inc., Lakeland Power Distribution Ltd. (Parry Sound service territory), Chapleau Public Utilities Corporation, Sioux Lookout Hydro Inc., InnPower Corporation, Atikokan Hydro Inc. and Algoma Power Inc.

Lowering Electricity Costs for the Most Vulnerable Consumers

The Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) is an income-tested, application-based program that lowers electricity costs for the most vulnerable, providing a rebate directly on bills. The Province is working with the Ontario Energy Board on the Province’s proposal to increase the OESP monthly benefit amounts by 50 per cent, which would significantly enhance the benefit that eligible consumers receive. The OESP would also become available to more Ontarians by introducing new eligibility categories.

To help OESP-eligible Ontarians receive their credits, the government is pursuing automatic qualifications for customers who are enrolled in other provincial social assistance programs.

Promoting Energy-Efficient Improvements to Ontario Homes

The Province has established an Affordability Fund to provide support to Ontarians who do not qualify for low-income conservation programs so that they can adopt energy efficiency improvements to help reduce their future electricity bills. The fund was developed with input from electricity distributors and other stakeholders.

The Province is committed to supporting electricity conservation through existing programs such as the Save on Energy Home Assistance Program, Heating & Cooling Incentive program, and Coupon Event. Local natural gas distribution companies also offer conservation programs such as the Home Weatherization Program, Home Winterproofing Program and the Ontario Home Energy Conservation Incentive Program.

Providing a First Nations On-Reserve Delivery Credit

The Province is planning to introduce legislation that, if passed, would enable a First Nations On-Reserve Delivery Credit that would eliminate delivery charges for eligible households, saving them an average of about $1,020 per year.

Reducing Electricity Costs for Businesses

The government is continuing to lower electricity costs for businesses to help maintain a competitive environment. Ontario is proposing to further expand the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI) program by reducing the eligibility threshold from one megawatt (MW) to 500 kilowatts (kW) for targeted manufacturing and industrial sectors, including greenhouses. The ICI program helps consumers reduce their electricity bills by providing an incentive to shift consumption to off-peak hours.

This proposed change is in addition to the Province’s existing actions to reduce electricity costs for businesses, such as providing ongoing annual support totalling up to $120 million to qualifying large industrial facilities in northern Ontario and ending the debt retirement charge (DRC) for commercial, industrial and all other electricity users as of April 1, 2018.

Modernizing the Province’s Electricity Markets

Ontario’s commitment to lowering energy costs for ratepayers includes working with Provincial agencies to identify opportunities to drive efficiency and productivity improvements.

  • The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) regulates and licenses more than 70 LDCs and will identify opportunities to further drive transmitter and LDC efficiencies and productivity improvements, including the use of innovative technologies and business processes.
  • The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) plans for the province’s electricity needs, balances supply and demand in real time, and administers conservation programs. The IESO’s Market Renewal initiative is estimated to save up to $5.2 billion over a 10-year period, starting in 2021.

More details on these and other measures to drive costs out of the system, encourage conservation to help meet Ontario’s climate change goals, and reduce the supply cost of electricity will be included in the Province’s upcoming Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP), which is expected to be released in spring 2017.

Expanding Access to Natural Gas

Ontario is investing $100 million in the new Natural Gas Grant Program. The program will support the building of infrastructure to expand access to natural gas to areas currently underserved, including rural, northern Ontario and First Nation communities.

Natural gas is consistently less expensive than many other sources of energy. By providing access to natural gas to more communities, Ontario will attract new industry, increase affordability of agriculture, provide a cleaner source of energy, and reduce costs.

Ontario's Drive Clean logo

Elimination of the Drive Clean Emission Test Fee

Ontario’s mandatory vehicle emissions inspection and maintenance program, Drive Clean, tests over two million vehicles annually. As of April 1, 2017, the government eliminated the initial $30 fee drivers used to pay for Drive Clean emissions tests. To make everyday life easier for Ontarians, the Province also eliminated testing requirements during the resale of light-duty vehicles, such as most cars, vans, SUVs and light trucks.

Helping Parents

OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare

Mother holding her child at pharmacy counter
OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare means free prescription drugs for four million Ontarians.

Ontario’s health care system has provided critical support and care to families for generations. It is part of the social fabric of Ontario that gives everyone access to a high quality of life and the chance to succeed. The government is committed to ensuring all Ontarians have equitable access to the care they need to be healthy and to thrive.

Appropriately used prescription drugs are an essential and integral part of a modern health care system.

Over the past several years, Ontario has been advocating for a national pharmacare program so that no family has to worry about the affordability of life-saving drugs, should they ever need them. Comprehensive public pharmacare would expand access to prescription drugs for all Ontarians who need them and eliminate the financial barriers that currently exist for the estimated one in 10 Ontarians who cannot afford prescription drugs.

Access to prescription drugs is essential for a truly responsive and sustainable health care system. Pharmacare will help ensure access to prescribed medications, particularly for those who are most in need and least able to pay. It is the natural next step in the evolution of Canada’s most revered social program — universal public health care.

Today over 3.9 million people in Ontario benefit from prescription drug coverage under the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) Program, including over 2.3 million seniors and over 900,000 people on social assistance.

Starting on January 1, 2018, Ontario will launch OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare — providing universal drug coverage to all children and youth across the province.

OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare will be available to all children and youth aged 24 and under, regardless of family income. It will completely cover the cost of all medicines funded through the ODB Program. There will be no deductible and no co-payment. OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare is the first program of its kind in Canada.

Helping Families Access and Afford Child Care

Two women and a child playing on the floor
Ontario has removed child care waitlist fees to help families with young children.

Finding quality and affordable child care can be a challenge for families in some communities due to long waitlists for subsidies and spaces. The government is helping 100,000 more children access affordable, quality licensed child care to give them the best start in life and support families across Ontario. As a first step, the Province invested an additional $65.5 million to help create 3,400 licensed child care spaces in fall 2016.

In addition to creating new licensed spaces, the renewed investment in child care will also:

  • Help to provide a subsidy to approximately 60 per cent of new spaces to address affordability and reduce fee subsidy waitlists; and
  • Provide greater responsiveness to parents’ needs and ease the transition for children with special needs.

By 2017–18, this new investment will support access to licensed child care for 24,000 more children up to four years old through new fee subsidy spaces and support for new licensed child care spaces in schools. These new supports will reduce waitlists, better ensuring that parents with low- and middle-incomes can benefit in a variety of ways.

This new commitment builds upon the 56,000 licensed child care spaces the government has helped create over the past three years. Ontario has also invested an additional $63.5 million each year since 2010 to help fill the gap left when the federal government stepped away from its child care responsibility. The Province welcomes the federal government supporting Ontario’s investment as part of the infrastructure announcement outlined in the 2017 federal budget.

Moving forward, government will continue to work with schools and municipalities to provide funding through a mixed approach of school‐, community‐ and home‐based expansion to provide care that is convenient, flexible and in line with parents’ needs.

The government will also expand five existing child and family programs on‐reserve in the following communities:

  • M’Chigeeng First Nation;
  • Nibinamik First Nation;
  • Six Nations of the Grand River;
  • Walpole Island First Nation; and
  • Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve.

Ontario will continue to work with Indigenous partners to help increase the number of quality, affordable licensed child care spaces.

See also Chapter V: Working with Our Partners for more information on Ontario’s Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

Supporting Community Hubs

Community hubs are vibrant centres of community life that generate economic and social benefits while improving the efficiency of local services. The Province is taking measures to coordinate health, social and education services to better serve people and their communities by creating spaces for community use in schools, and expanding child care and family services. As an example, in the education sector, Ontario is taking specific actions to encourage community hubs in schools, including:

Front view of Rexdale Community Hub building
Community hubs offer a central point of access for a range of vital services like health and education.
  • Creating space for new child care and child family support programs through Ontario Early Years Child and Family Centres in schools;
  • Retrofitting existing child care space within schools to open up more spaces for children under four years old; and
  • Renovating surplus school space to make it available for use by community partners and the public.

To enable development of more community hubs, the government will be taking into consideration broader economic and community benefits when making decisions on the disposition of surplus Provincial properties.

The Province is committed to making it easier to create community hubs and ensuring the best possible use of public properties, including schools, hospitals and Provincial properties that are no longer needed for their original purpose.

In line with Community Hubs in Ontario: A Strategic Framework and Action Plan, the government is transforming the way in which public properties are divested to ensure a meaningful assessment of opportunities to retain them within the public sphere.

The government is reviewing relevant Provincial policies to ensure alignment with community-focused objectives. It will also promote coordinated planning with local partners and across government, encourage integrated service delivery, and incorporate multi-use design as part of its long-term infrastructure planning. As well, the Province is hosting the Community Hubs Summit in May 2017 to bring together those who are working in, or planning for, a community hub in Ontario. The summit will launch a new resource network, encourage knowledge sharing, and provide an engagement opportunity for the ongoing implementation of the community hub recommendations.

Helping Students

Making Postsecondary Education More Affordable

Access to a postsecondary education should not be based on ability to pay — it should be based on desire to learn. The government is fundamentally transforming the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to make postsecondary education more accessible and affordable for Ontario students and their families, including mature students. Enhancing opportunities for postsecondary education will help students improve their employment prospects by gaining the knowledge and skills they need to compete in the global economy.

Student holding school acceptance letter
Transforming OSAP to help more students pursue postsecondary education, regardless of family income.

Starting this fall, Ontario is rolling out the new OSAP to provide more transparent, timely and targeted financial assistance to students with the greatest financial need. These changes will make average tuition free for more than 210,000 Ontario students and reduce the cost for many more. Most Ontario students will receive more aid than they have been eligible for under the current framework.

These changes to OSAP will also help ensure students have an accurate understanding of postsecondary education costs well before they start their school year. The simpler, integrated, upfront grant and net tuition will make it easier for Ontario families to plan and budget for education costs.

  • Eligible students, including mature students and adult learners with annual family incomes of $50,000 or less, will receive enough in OSAP grants to cover average tuition costs;
  • 80 per cent of students with annual family incomes below $90,000 will receive grants that equal or exceed the average cost of tuition and will not need to be repaid;
  • About 230,000 students will have less debt than they would have had under previous OSAP rules; and
  • No Ontario student will receive less than they are currently eligible for through the 30% Off Ontario Tuition Grant.

Chart 2.1 Making Tuition More Affordable: Jacqueline in College — Living at Home

Making Tuition More Affordable: Jacqueline in College — Living at Home
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Chart 2.2 Making Tuition More Affordable: Jerome in University — Living away from Home

Making Tuition More  Affordable: Jerome in University — Living away from Home
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Helping Seniors

The province’s more than two million seniors are an important and growing segment of the Ontario population. As of 2015, more Ontarians turn 65 each year than turn 15, and the number of seniors in the province is projected to almost double to 4.5 million by 2040, making up over 25 per cent of the province’s population.

Seniors have contributed to the community and the economy throughout their lives. In turn, the government needs to be responsive to their multi-faceted needs as citizens and community members, especially the needs of those who are vulnerable or on fixed incomes.

Promoting Healthy and Active Aging

According to research conducted by Statistics Canada and the National Seniors Council, it is estimated that 30 per cent of Canadian seniors are at risk of becoming socially isolated. The same research indicates that social isolation can negatively affect both physical and mental health. Seniors themselves acknowledged that, as their participation in social activities increases, they feel healthier and more engaged and have better quality of life.

Investing in Elderly Persons Centres

Group of seniors exercising
Richmond Hill’s McConaghy Centre provides recreational and support programs for seniors.

Elderly Persons Centres (EPCs) are community centres that provide social and recreational programs to promote wellness for seniors. They may also offer preventive health care education and support services to help seniors stay active and independent for as long as possible. There are currently 263 EPCs serving more than 100,000 seniors in Ontario and providing programs and services such as Meals on Wheels, congregate dining, friendly visits, falls prevention and exercise classes, and transportation services.

The government is providing $8 million over the next three years, allowing for an additional 40 new EPCs by 2018–19 to meet the growing needs of seniors and help support some of Ontario’s most vulnerable populations. Expanding the EPC network will also contribute to development of community hubs when co-locating with community health centres.

Two seniors using a tablet
Ontario’s Seniors Community Grant helps older adults stay involved, active and engaged in their communities.

Connecting Seniors with Community, Culture and Technology

The Seniors Community Grant (SCG) Program aims to support small grassroots organizations that work exclusively with seniors. Since 2014, SCG funding has supported 923 projects reaching approximately 256,000 seniors. Grants support social inclusion, learning, volunteerism and community engagement.

The government will extend funding for the program and provide an additional $11 million over three years to support facilities to help seniors engage socially, volunteer and continue their lifelong learning.

Lowering Public Transit Costs for Seniors

To help Ontario’s seniors participate in community life, the Province is committed to making public transportation more affordable for them.

The government is proposing a new Ontario Seniors’ Public Transit Tax Credit for all Ontarians aged 65 or older, covering eligible public transit costs as of July 1, 2017.

It would provide a refundable benefit of 15 per cent of eligible public transit costs, providing an average annual benefit of $130.

Details about eligibility for the credit would be announced in time for the July 1 implementation date.

Ensuring Sprinklers Are Installed in Licensed Retirement Homes

The Province is enhancing seniors’ safety by providing funding to small and rural retirement homes to help with the cost of installing sprinklers, so that licensed retirement homes in Ontario are compliant with the new requirements of the Fire Code by 2019.

Supporting Seniors’ Health

As part of Ontario’s investments in health care this year, the Province will support seniors through new innovative models to ensure patients are receiving care in the most appropriate setting possible, within their community. Investments will support local solutions for new models of care that avoid unnecessary hospital stays by leveraging other service providers, such as retirement homes and supportive housing providers. For more information on the Province’s actions to help ensure individuals are in appropriate care settings, please refer to Chapter IV, Section A: Strengthening Health Care.

Supporting Ontarians Affected by Dementia

In 2016, the Ontario government announced plans to develop a comprehensive new Dementia Strategy and released a discussion paper3 to support the strategy’s development. An estimated 214,000 Ontarians now live with dementia; that number is expected to rise to 266,000 by 2022, and to over 430,000 by 2038.4

The responsibility of caring for someone living with dementia can take an enormous physical, emotional and financial toll on care partners — family members, friends and neighbours. Nearly half of people living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias have caregivers who are distressed. Caregivers may also have additional responsibilities, such as a job or a young family, further adding to the physical, emotional and financial distress they experience.

Ontario’s new Dementia Strategy will provide more than $100 million over three years to support people with dementia and those who care for them through better coordinated and enhanced services. This will include funding to expand province-wide access to community programs and other investments to enhance access to care, information and support from as early as possible once a diagnosis is made. The strategy will help patients and their caregivers find and access the most appropriate care and supports and improve training and education in dementia care for personal support workers, physicians, nurses and other front-line workers.

The Province will invest an additional $20 million in 2017 for respite care. This builds on the 2016 investment to offer respite to the unpaid caregivers (family and friends) of seniors, people living with dementia and other home care patients. This funding is used for personal support services or nursing support at home, allowing caregivers to schedule breaks from the crucial work of caring for a loved one. With these new investments in respite care, the Province’s three-year investment for respite care will total $120 million.

Community Investments

Since 2013, the government has increased its investment in home and community care by about $250 million a year to fulfill the commitment outlined in “Patients First: A Roadmap to Strengthen Home and Community Care.” Continuing this investment in 2017–18 will support more hours of care for complex patients, much needed respite for caregivers, and the delivery of key improvements in mental health and addiction services, health care for Indigenous populations, and implementation of a dementia strategy in Ontario, among other priorities.

Increasing Investments in Long-Term Care

Long-term care (LTC) homes provide residential care and support to some of Ontario’s most vulnerable citizens, including seniors with complex care needs such as dementia and multiple medical conditions. In 2017, an additional $58 million, representing a two-per-cent increase, will be invested in resident care.

Funding will also be provided to expand the exemplary work already underway in the long-term care sector to improve access to training and supports for quality palliative and end-of-life care in long-term care homes. This investment will support the care that loved ones deserve, and provide comfort and dignity towards the end of life.

The government will increase the food allowance by over six percent this year, or $15 million, to ensure that LTC homes can provide nutritious menus that are responsive to medical and ethno-cultural needs.

The Province is encouraging operators to accelerate the redevelopment of more than 30,000 LTC beds by 2025. Growth in the demand for LTC beds continues to outpace existing supply. The Province will undertake planning and modernize its approach to provide better services to seniors who require long-term care.

In the past year, the Province announced plans to fund the redevelopment of 963 LTC beds in the communities listed below:

  • 100 in Aylmer;
  • 120 in Brampton;
  • 95 in Cambridge;
  • 69 in Iroquois Falls;
  • 72 in Mattawa;
  • 96 in Mount Forest;
  • 160 in Niagara-on-the-Lake;
  • 59 in Quinte West;
  • 32 in Stouffville; and
  • 160 in Whitby.

The government is committed to ensuring that all LTC home operators provide safe, quality care for residents and their families. While the vast majority of LTC homes are consistently in compliance, Ontario is strengthening its quality and safety inspection program. In January 2017, the government announced new enforcement tools to include fees and penalties for operators with repeated non-compliance issues. These enforcement changes will require legislative and regulatory amendments.

Expanding Seniors’ Access to Affordable Drugs

Every year, an additional 30,000 seniors will become eligible for lower out-of-pocket drug costs. As announced in the 2016 Budget, the government expanded access to the Seniors Co-Payment Program by raising the income threshold level to allow more seniors to qualify.

Housing Affordability

Housing is essential for families across Ontario. Yet today, too many people are feeling mounting pressure when trying to buy a home or afford their rent.

In particular, the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) has experienced dramatic price increases in recent months. This phenomenon has spread to several regions in southern Ontario over the last several months. While rising prices reflect the economic strength of the region and have benefited many current homeowners, the cost of buying or renting is creating challenges. People work hard to provide for their families. They should be able to rent or enter the real estate market without making undue sacrifices or taking on a huge amount of risk.

Rising Prices and Rents

Ontario’s housing market has seen very dynamic growth in recent years. This has been supported by solid economic fundamentals, including a growing population, rising employment, higher incomes and very low borrowing costs. House price increases have been particularly significant in the GTHA. After two consecutive years of double-digit gains, average house prices in the Toronto region reached $916,567 in March 2017, up 33.2 per cent from a year earlier.

Chart 2.3 Greater Toronto Area Price Increases Outstrip Other Cities

Greater Toronto Area Price Increases Outstrip Other Cities
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Housing prices are affected by many factors, including population growth, interest rates and job creation. It is important that policy solutions are guided by an approach that minimizes the risk of unintended consequences that could worsen the problem or jeopardize the important investments Ontario homeowners have made. That is why, as announced in the 2016 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review, the Province is collecting more precise data on the real estate market. The government has also consulted widely with renters, homeowners, municipalities, academia, other jurisdictions and private-sector economists to determine what can be done to address housing affordability.

Actions Underway

Helping Ontario’s First-Time Homebuyers

Couple holding keys in front of their new house
Ontario is making it more affordable for families and individuals to buy their first home.

Ontario has taken steps to address affordability for first-time homebuyers by modernizing the Land Transfer Tax (LTT) to reflect the current real estate market, as announced in the 2016 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review.

To help Ontarians buy their first home, the Province has doubled the maximum refund to $4,000 for qualifying first-time homebuyers. The refund is restricted to Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Purchasers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents when a transaction closes have 18 months to become eligible and can apply for the refund within the 18-month period.

This increased refund is already reducing closing costs for first-time purchasers, freeing up funds for furniture or appliances for the home.

As a result of the increased maximum, no LTT is payable on the first $368,000 of the cost of a first home for qualifying purchasers.

Restoring Stability to the Housing Market

The government has considered a range of options, having heard that action must be taken on a number of fronts, including addressing housing demand and supply. As a result, the Province is moving forward with a Fair Housing Plan to increase affordability for both buyers and renters.

Going forward, the Province, working with federal and municipal levels of government, will closely monitor the housing market and the effect of these measures to ensure they are achieving the desired outcomes.

Non-Resident Speculation Tax

Ontario’s economy benefits greatly from newcomers who decide to make the province home. The government is concerned that non-resident investors — who are not planning on living in the province — have been purchasing Ontario homes primarily for speculation purposes. On April 20, 2017, the Province proposed a new 15 per cent tax on the price of homes in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) purchased by individuals who are not citizens or permanent residents of Canada or by foreign corporations.

The proposed Non-Resident Speculation Tax (NRST) would apply to transfers of land that contains at least one and not more than six single family residences. The NRST would not apply to purchases of other types of properties, including multi-residential rental apartment buildings, agricultural land or commercial land.

If passed, the proposed NRST would be effective as of April 21, 2017. Legislation to implement the tax would allow for expansion to other regions of the province, if warranted by market conditions.

Binding agreements of purchase and sale signed on or before April 20, 2017 would not be subject to the NRST.

Refugees and nominees under the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program would not be subject to the NRST. Subject to eligibility requirements, a rebate would be available for those who subsequently attain citizenship or permanent resident status as well as foreign nationals working in Ontario and international students. Further details on the NRST are available in the bulletin posted on the Ministry of Finance website.5

Improving Transparency and Reducing Tax Avoidance in Pre-Sale Agreements

“Paper flipping” refers to the practice of entering into a contractual agreement to buy a residential unit and assigning it to another person prior to closing. It can also refer to arrangements in which one party substitutes another party in a contract to buy a residential unit. This practice may be contributing to tax avoidance and excessive speculation in the housing market.

To better understand the extent of the problem, the government will require information about assignments of agreements and similar arrangements through the Land Transfer Tax (LTT) system. At the time the transfer is registered and LTT is payable, purchasers would be required to declare whether they entered the agreement by way of assignment or another similar arrangement. Information gathered through this declaration would assist the Ministry of Finance in ensuring that the correct amount of tax is paid. For example, any consideration for an assignment should be included as part of the value of the consideration used to calculate the LTT amount.

Additional details about the changes will be made available in the coming months.

Ontario also intends to work with the federal government to explore more comprehensive reporting requirements related to paper flipping. This would better enable the Ministry of Finance and the Canada Revenue Agency to ensure that the correct federal and provincial taxes, including income and sales taxes, are paid on purchases and sales of real estate in Ontario.

Increasing Housing Affordability in the Rental Market

The government proposes to improve rent control in Ontario to help strengthen protections for tenants and keep costs affordable. The Province is proposing to expand rent control to all private rental units, including those occupied on or after November 1, 1991.

The Province also proposes to:

  • Create a standard lease to help both tenants and landlords know their rights and responsibilities, while reducing the number of disputes;
  • Protect tenants from eviction resulting from abuse of the “landlord’s own use” provision;
  • Prevent landlords from pursuing former tenants for unauthorized charges;
  • Delay above-guideline rent increases until elevator maintenance orders are addressed; and
  • Remove above-guideline rent increases for utilities to protect tenants from the cost of carbon pricing and encourage landlords to make their buildings more energy efficient.

Expanding rent control and strengthening protections for tenants is one part of the government’s plan to address rising housing costs and ensure that all Ontarians have a safe, suitable and affordable place to call home.

Incenting the Development of New Apartment Buildings

To further encourage the development of purpose-built rental buildings, the government will rebate a portion of development charges for eligible new multi-residential projects. This rebate program will provide $125 million over five years for eligible projects.

Development charges are upfront fees that represent a significant portion of construction costs, and some developers have suggested that they can be a barrier to the development of new purpose-built rental housing. The rebate program will be scoped to target projects that would not have proceeded in the absence of this incentive.

Municipalities that opt to participate could help tailor the design of the program to meet the needs of their communities. For example, eligible projects could include those that meet key criteria such as affordability and providing an appropriate mix of unit types. Working with municipalities, the Province will also target projects in those communities that are most in need of new purpose-built rental housing.

Improving the Fairness of the Property Taxation of Apartment Buildings

The government has heard concerns about the significantly higher property tax burden for
multi-residential apartment buildings and its effect on housing affordability.

The property tax levied on owners of multi-residential apartment buildings is generally reflected in rents paid by tenants. This has implications for rental affordability, as the average municipal property tax burden on apartment buildings is more than double that of other residential properties, such as condominiums. This higher tax burden is particularly concerning given the lower average incomes of tenants in apartment buildings.

As a first step in addressing these concerns, the government has frozen the municipal property tax burden for multi-residential properties in communities where these taxes are high. A review of the potential implications of multi-residential property taxation on rent affordability is also underway. As part of this review, the government is consulting with affected stakeholders, including municipalities, tenants and apartment building owners.

Based on early feedback received during this review, the government will ensure that new multi-residential apartment developments will be taxed in a way that parallels the taxation of other residential properties to support and encourage the development of new purpose-built rental units.

The Province already provides municipalities with the option to tax new multi-residential apartments at a rate similar to other residential properties. Many municipalities have adopted this option, and in order to ensure a consistent approach across Ontario, the Province will make this lower tax level mandatory. This measure will further support and encourage development of new multi-residential apartment units.

This change will not result in any loss of existing municipal tax revenues, as it will apply only to newly constructed apartments. Moreover, municipalities will levy property taxes on these properties using the same tax rate that would have applied if they had been developed as condominiums.

Vacant Homes Property Tax

The government understands the concerns that have been raised about residential units potentially being left vacant by speculators while many people are looking for housing they can afford. The City of Toronto has identified a tax on vacant homes as a tool that should be considered. A vacant home tax could help encourage property owners to sell unoccupied units or make them available to be rented. This could, in turn, increase housing supply and help promote affordability.

For this reason, the government is proposing amendments to legislation that would grant Toronto broad authority to levy an additional property tax on vacant homes. Under this approach, the City would be responsible for the detailed design, implementation and administration of the tax.

The government will also work with other interested municipalities that are experiencing issues with homes being left vacant as a result of speculation.

Unlocking Housing Development

The government will also work with municipalities to ensure they have the tools they need to help encourage the supply of new housing. This could include providing municipalities with the flexibility to use property tax tools to assist with unlocking development opportunities, such as imposing a higher tax on vacant land which has been approved and serviced for new housing.

This initiative would complement additional Provincial efforts to streamline the development approvals process and help bring new housing to market more rapidly.

Supportive Growth Planning

The Province has been working with municipalities across the GTHA, and data shows that there is enough serviced land and units ready to be built to meet the requirements of Provincial policy.

The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, together with the Greenbelt Plan, is designed to help manage the significant growth coming to this region. It already plans for enough land and a range of housing types to accommodate growth, and directs it to existing built-up areas and to where transit can best serve all residents and businesses. To better reflect the needs of a growing region, new provisions will require municipalities to consider the appropriate range of, and unit sizes in, apartments, condominiums and townhouses to accommodate a diverse range of household sizes and incomes. This will directly support building more of the affordable “missing middle” housing for which people are looking. Ontario continues to work with municipalities on their Housing and Homelessness Plans to ensure a complete range of housing options are provided in communities.

Streamlining Approvals

To help unlock development opportunities where the regulatory approvals process or other barriers are slowing housing development from coming to market, the government is creating a special “Residential Land Development Facilitation Team” to help all parties come to the table and find solutions to build housing in places where itis approved and makes the most sense. As part of this effort, over the coming months Provincial officials will fast-track efforts with developers and municipalities to review the development approvals process and recommend ways that stakeholders can work together to responsibly streamline it.

Additional Land Use Planning Reforms

The government is also making a number of reforms to the land use planning system to make it more efficient, more transparent and easier to build needed housing, including some long overdue reforms that will be proposed to the Ontario Municipal Board. Legislation has been passed to allow municipalities to bring in inclusionary zoning programs to increase the supply of affordable housing units and to support the creation of secondary suites or apartments in existing homes. This work includes consulting on potential regulatory changes to the Building Code — an important way to bring more rental units into the market and help homeowners with their mortgage costs.

Consumer Protection

Consumer protection is increasingly important as individuals assume growing responsibility for their own financial security. Ontarians relying on the financial services industry deserve a strong regulatory framework to protect their interests.

Strengthening Financial Services and Pension Regulation

The government is committed to establishing a new, flexible and innovative financial services and pension regulator that will strengthen consumer, investor and pension plan beneficiary protection, and is taking key steps to begin the transition to a new regulatory authority.

In December 2016, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario Act, 2016 (FSRA Act) was passed, establishing the initial parameters of the new regulator. The government’s next step will be appointing a board of directors to oversee the management of FSRA’s affairs as it builds its regulatory capacity. The government expects to appoint a board in spring 2017.

The government will also continue to consult with stakeholders and review recommendations from the expert advisory panel that recommended the creation of FSRA. This work will inform the development of FSRA’s mandate and governance structure, as well as the structure and powers of the Financial Services Tribunal (FST). Legislative amendments regarding these priorities are expected to be introduced by the end of 2017. In the interim, the government is introducing legislative amendments that would enable the FST to manage its caseload more efficiently.

The government also intends to transfer responsibility for the incorporation of cooperative corporations from the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (MGCS). This change is intended to consolidate the incorporation process for cooperatives with those currently in place for other types of Ontario businesses. It is expected that MGCS would begin incorporating cooperative corporations in 2018.

In addition, the government plans to transfer regulatory oversight of syndicated mortgage investments from FSCO to the securities regulator. This is consistent with both the expert advisory panel’s report and the manner in which these products are regulated in other provinces. Going forward, the government will work with regulators to plan an orderly transfer of the oversight of these products.

In advance of the transfer, the government is taking action to strengthen protections for investors in syndicated mortgages. New regulations would establish investment limits on these products and require mortgage brokerages to document their assessments of the suitability of such products for their clients. FSCO would also expand requirements relating to information provided by mortgage brokerages to ensure that investors are aware of the potential risks associated with these types of investments.

Strengthening Consumer Protection for Owners of Newly Built Homes

Ontario has released the final report from the Honourable J. Douglas Cunningham, QC on the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act and the Tarion Warranty Corporation, and will move forward to further protect owners of newly built homes across the province.

To improve consumer protection, accountability, transparency and board governance, Ontario proposes to:

  • Make the dispute resolution process easier for homeowners if they discover a problem in the construction of their new home;
  • Separate the provider of the new home warranty program from the new home builders regulator to increase consumer confidence; and
  • Give the government responsibility in making rules, setting standards and introducing modern oversight measures to improve accountability and transparency.

The government has asked Tarion to introduce new deposit protection measures to better reflect today’s home prices and deposit requirements.

Regulation of Financial Planning

To ensure that Ontarians have access to services that will help them reach their financial goals, the government appointed an independent expert committee in 2015 to review the regulatory framework relating to financial planning and advisory services.

In March 2017, the government released the expert committee’s final report. Its recommendations represent an opportunity to strengthen consumer protection and the quality of information available to individuals as they make decisions essential to their long-term financial well-being.

The government is considering the report’s recommendations in the context of the ongoing transformation of Ontario’s financial services regulatory system. Elements of this transformation include efforts to increase harmonization across the country through the Cooperative Capital Markets Regulatory System (CCMR) and plans to improve consumer, investor and pension plan beneficiary protection through a new regulatory authority.

Over the coming year, the government intends to work with its regulatory partners to close the gap that currently allows financial planners to perform their valuable work without regulatory oversight or specified proficiency requirements. In addition, the government will take steps to curb consumer confusion by working with regulators to restrict the use of titles related to financial planning. The government will respond to the report’s recommendation to develop a central registry of persons providing financial planning and advisory services, and will work with regulators to consider the report’s recommendation related to referral arrangements. The government also fully supports the report’s recommendation to actively encourage financial literacy in Ontario. The government’s actions in each of these areas will be informed by input from relevant stakeholders and Ontario’s financial services regulators.

The government welcomes the report’s support for a universal statutory best interest duty. The report adds to a growing number of voices, in Ontario and across Canada, who argue that an elevated standard could improve consumer protection. Informed by consultations led by the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) and in close conjunction with its regulatory partners, the government intends to examine the feasibility of a universal statutory best interest duty in Ontario.

Supporting Financial Literacy

Husband and wife reviewing paper documents and using a tablet
Ontario is taking steps to better protect consumers and inform them about their rights.

The government recognizes that financial literacy is critical to the prosperity of Ontarians and promotes a number of initiatives that support financial literacy.

The OSC, through its Investor Office, helps individuals make informed financial and investment choices. Investor Office Fact Cards were recently introduced to share information about investing. These “digital index cards” explain a wide range of topics, such as understanding mutual funds, learning about different types of investment risks, and recognizing the red flags of investment fraud. The Investor Office also operates GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca, which provides information and financial tools to help investors make better decisions about their money.

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario also undertakes a number of activities to promote financial literacy. In November 2016, FSCO’s Financial Literacy Month campaign included a focus on increasing knowledge about mortgages among first-time homebuyers aged 25 to 34. As part of this campaign, FSCO conducted a survey that showed this demographic has limited knowledge of the risks associated with mortgages. FSCO also operates an “Understanding Mortgages” website6 that provides useful tips to consumers on shopping and applying for a mortgage.

Ontario is partnering with educators on pilot projects across the province to revise the current career studies course and help students develop the skills they need to compete, including those relating to financial literacy. For more information, please refer to Chapter IV, Section B: Investing in Education.

Strengthening Investor Protection

Effective enforcement is essential to any reliable regulatory regime. The government plans to propose legislative changes that would improve enforcement of investment industry self-regulatory organizations’ (SROs) decisions, by allowing these decisions to be filed with the court. This measure will improve SROs’ ability to collect fines levied against individuals, helping to deter potential offenders and increasing funds available to the SROs for strengthening investor protection.

Improving Auto Insurance

Winter tire on a car
Drivers with winter tires can have their auto insurance rates cut by two to five per cent.

The government continues to make auto insurance more affordable for Ontario’s almost 10 million drivers, while protecting consumers and ensuring that people hurt in auto accidents get the medical treatment they need. Currently, Ontarians are protected by the most generous accident benefit coverage of any comparable jurisdiction in Canada.

Reforms implemented since 2013 and other cost-reduction strategies have resulted in significantly lower auto insurance rates and are expected to deliver further rate reductions as insurance policies continue to be renewed through 2017.

While rates have decreased, the Province recognizes that more can be done to make the system more efficient and affordable. This year, drivers will benefit from the option of using electronic proof of insurance. This will allow drivers to confirm their proof of insurance through their mobile device, instead of the current paper “pink slips” issued by insurance companies. When using this option, drivers will no longer need to replace a paper copy of their proof of insurance each time they renew their auto insurance policies.

Distributing documents electronically, including proof of insurance and other documents such as policy renewals, will enhance consumer convenience and result in savings for insurance companies. To ensure that these savings are passed along to the consumer, the government will require that insurers offer a discount to policyholders who choose to receive documents electronically.

Long-Term Changes to the System

Over the long term, the government remains committed to finding ways to continue to lower auto insurance rates and improve health outcomes for victims of auto accidents without reducing benefits. While the Province has made significant reforms to auto insurance, there is a concern that the current structure may allow individual players to profit unfairly or for fraud to occur.

Recognizing this, the Minister of Finance tasked David Marshall, former president and chief executive officer of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and now advisor to the government on auto insurance and pensions, with examining the auto insurance system and providing recommendations to improve health outcomes for accident victims and make auto insurance more affordable for all Ontario drivers.

The report was posted on April 11, 2017.7

These recommendations propose a wide-scale transformation of the current system to deliver better outcomes for accident victims while creating a more efficient and cost-effective system. The recommendations aim to:

  • Ensure that people hurt in auto accidents receive the care they need to recover in a timely manner through new evidence-based mandatory programs of care designed to treat all injuries;
  • Establish independent medical evaluation centres to minimize the likelihood that accident victims are drawn into the dispute process; and
  • Allow more competition and innovation in auto insurance that is more responsive to the needs of consumers and changing market conditions, while ensuring strong oversight by the regulator.

The government is reviewing the recommendations and will be hosting consultations in the coming months.

Protecting Ride-Sharing Consumers and Drivers

The government is modernizing auto insurance in Ontario to be more responsive to changes in consumer preferences and provide greater choice and protection for drivers and consumers participating in ride-sharing.

Ride-sharing enables privately owned vehicles to be used for other purposes. This means that the auto insurance system needs to be more flexible in accommodating this innovation to further promote competition and consumer choice in the market.

Recognizing that Ontarians were not adequately protected, the government took immediate steps last year to enable auto insurance coverage for ride-sharing participants, including drivers and passengers of ride-sharing companies including Uber, RideCo and Turo.

The government is now seeking advice from a working group that includes representatives from FSCO and the insurance industry. This working group is examining a number of issues relating to ride-sharing and associated services, including the interaction of multiple policies. The government looks forward to receiving the working group’s advice.

Footnotes

1 The Social Program Evaluation Group — Queen’s University, Final Report: Evaluation of the Implementation of the Ontario Full-Day Early Learning-Kindergarten Program (Fall 2012) and the Offord Centre for Child Studies — McMaster University, The Full Day Kindergarten Early Learning Program Final Report (October 2012).

2 OSAP Aid Estimator

3 Ontario Ministries of Health and Long-Term Care and Education, Developing Ontario’s Dementia Strategy: A Discussion Paper (September 2016).

4 Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Dementia Capacity Planning Project, 2017.

5 Non-Resident Speculation Tax

6 Mortgage Brokering

7 Fair Benefits Fairly Delivered A Review of the Auto Insurance System in Ontario

Chart Descriptions

Chart 2.1: Making Tuition More Affordable: Jacqueline in College — Living at Home

This infographic presents an illustrative scenario comparing student aid for a college student Jacqueline, living at home before and after full implementation of OSAP reforms. Assuming a family income of $40,000 per year for a family of four, Jacqueline would get $5,914 in total OSAP aid, including $2,771 in non-repayable grants in 2015–16. In 2018–19, Jacqueline would get $6,539 in total OSAP aid, including $4,528 in non-repayable grants, which represents a significant increase in non-repayable grants that cover her tuition. Scenario assumes Jacqueline pays regular college tuition of $2,768 in 2015–16 and $3,026 in 2018–19.

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Chart 2.2: Making Tuition More Affordable: Jerome in University — Living away from Home

This infographic presents an illustrative scenario comparing student aid for a university arts and science student Jerome, living away from home before and after full implementation of OSAP reforms. Assuming a family income of $80,000 per year for a family of four, Jerome would get $11,744 in total OSAP aid, including $4,344 in non-repayable grants in 2015–16. In 2018–19, Jerome would get $15,236 in total OSAP aid, which represents significantly more aid including an increase in non-repayable grants to $6,226. While Jerome’s parents’ contribution would have been required in 2015–16, it will not be required in 2018–19. Scenario assumes Jerome pays average arts and science tuition of $6,160 in 2015–16 and $6,712 in 2018–19.

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Chart 2.3: Greater Toronto Area Price Increases Outstrip Other Cities

This bar chart shows the average home resale price for 10 Ontario regions and the provincial average for 2015 and 2016. It also shows the per cent change in average home resale prices for 2016. In 2016, the average resale home price increase ranged from 1.0 per cent in Thunder Bay to 17.3 per cent in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). For Ontario as a whole, the average resale home price increased by 15.3 per cent in 2016.

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