2015 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review
Chapter I: Building Ontario Up — Progress for Prosperity

Section E: Towards a Fair Society

All Ontarians should have opportunities to realize their full potential and lead healthy and prosperous lives. This means improving the supports necessary to address the changing labour market’s impact on people and ensuring that people with disabilities and other groups can fully participate in the labour market. The government has increased social assistance rates, raised the minimum wage, and made progress on the Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment. The Province is also continuing to transform its universal public health care system to help ensure all Ontarians get the quality services they need.

The government is building a fair society by promoting conditions that support people in a changing labour market and help those in poverty.

Ontario’s efforts towards a fair society also include important work in the areas of income support, social assistance and community supports. The Province is committed to improving the supports necessary to address the changing labour market’s impact on people and ensuring that people with disabilities and other groups can fully participate in the labour market.

The Province is also continuing to transform Ontario’s universal public health care system, to ensure all Ontarians have faster access to the right care, now and in the future.

2015 Budget: Building Ontario Up

In the 2015 Budget, the government reaffirmed its commitment to helping all Ontarians realize their full potential through the following initiatives.

Labour and Employment

  • Identify potential labour and employment law reforms that will help strengthen Ontario as a place to work and invest. Ontario’s Changing Workplaces Review focuses on better protecting workers, while supporting business in the changing economy.
  • Enable Ontarians to access the supports they need to succeed in today’s job market.

Income Support

  • Raise the minimum wage by the rate of Ontario’s Consumer Price Index to provide fairness to low‐income workers and predictability for business.
  • Increase the incomes of low‐ to moderate‐income families to help with the cost of raising children, reduce child poverty and provide a more stable family income base for parents who may experience uncertain earnings by indexing the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB).

Social Assistance and Community Supports

  • Increase rates for Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), based on recommendations from the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario.
  • Allocate $50 million over six years to the Local Poverty Reduction Fund. The fund will be used to combat poverty in new, innovative, evidence-based ways — specifically at the local level.
  • Engage with the Expert Advisory Panel on Homelessness on its recommendations, and update the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy to improve the effectiveness of programs and services related to housing and homelessness.
  • Combat sexual violence and harassment and improve support for survivors through Ontario’s It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment.
  • Ensure low-income families and vulnerable groups have the legal supports they need by expanding the income eligibility threshold for legal aid.
  • Community Hubs provide Ontarians with a central access point for a range of health and social services, along with cultural, recreational and green spaces. A Community Hub can be any publicly owned building, like a school or a community health centre.

  • Take steps to bring services together and use public spaces to better meet the growing and diverse needs of local residents through Community Hubs.

Progress since the 2015 Budget

Labour and Employment

To provide greater security for those navigating a changing labour market, the government concluded public consultations on Ontario’s Changing Workplaces Review in September. Recommendations are expected in the summer of 2016.

Income Support

To improve the incomes of low- to moderate-income families, the government:

  • Raised the minimum wage to $11.25 from $11.00 in October.
  • Increased the maximum annual OCB per child to $1,336 from $1,310 in July, enhancing the incomes of more than half a million families.
  • Enabled the implementation of the Ontario Electricity Support Program for low-income households. Beginning on January 1, 2016, this targeted assistance will be available to those who need it most, helping to ensure that low-income Ontarians have access to more affordable electricity.

Social Assistance and Community Supports

To improve assistance and support, the government:

  • Implemented social assistance increases, including a $25 per month, or $300 annual, increase for singles without children receiving Ontario Works; a one per cent increase for adults receiving Ontario Works; and a one per cent increase for people with disabilities who rely on ODSP.
  • Selected 41 projects from across Ontario for the Local Poverty Reduction Fund to gather evidence to support best practices in combating poverty among the target groups identified in the Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Projects Financed through the Local Poverty Reduction Fund

  • The Catholic Family Services of Peel–Dufferin will evaluate and strengthen its culinary training for youth program. The program provides at-risk youth who have an interest in the food service industry with practical skills and work experience to secure employment. It also connects them to other services, such as counselling and housing, to support their long-term goals.
  • The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres will evaluate and strengthen its community hub model. The program provides culturally appropriate services, including those with a focus on children and youth, healing and wellness, and education and training. The organization will evaluate seven of its sites and the impact on urban Aboriginal clients at the local level, while continuing to foster strong partnerships with friendship centres in communities across the province.
  • Committed to moving forward on the Expert Advisory Panel on Homelessness’ recommendations. The government is committing to ending chronic homelessness in 10 years and is providing up to $10 million over two years in targeted funding from the Local Poverty Reduction Fund to help address homelessness.
  • Introduced legislation related to It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment, to build a province where everyone is free from the threat of sexual violence and harassment.
  • Expanded eligibility for legal aid. Between June and August, Legal Aid Ontario issued certificates to 71 per cent more people experiencing domestic violence as part of their family law case, and to 62 per cent more people in other family law cases compared to the previous year.
  • Accepted all the recommendations contained in the Community Hubs Strategic Framework and Action Plan. The Action Plan laid out eight overarching recommendations, including removing barriers and creating incentives, and ensuring financial sustainability.

Going Forward

The 2015 Poverty Reduction Strategy Annual Report, which provides an update on the strategy’s progress, will be delivered by March 31, 2016.

The government is in the process of updating the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy (LTAHS). Ontario completed stakeholder consultations in July and is planning to release the updated LTAHS in the coming months.

In October, the government announced that its Gender Wage Gap Steering Committee will host consultations across the province to inform the development of a strategy that will help close the wage gap between men and women.

Ontario is also taking steps to restore full indexation for all injured workers who receive partial disability benefits. By January 1, 2018, all workers’ compensation benefits would be fully indexed (to the Consumer Price Index) on the benefit amount, with no upper limit.

In January 2016, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, will come into force for employers. The Act seeks to enhance inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce and spur innovative new accommodations in the workforce.

Promoting Accessibility in Ontario

The government partnered with Ryerson University’s Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to sponsor Hack-cessibility, a competition bringing together students, businesses, members of the accessibility community, entrepreneurs and policy-makers to brainstorm creative digital media solutions to accessibility challenges.

Transforming Health Care — Patients First

To help ensure all Ontarians get the quality health care services they need and rely on, now and in the future, the government is continuing to transform Ontario’s universal public health care system. It is focused on improving access, quality and value in health care for all Ontarians.

2015 Budget: Building Ontario Up

The 2015 Budget and Ontario’s Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care outlined a strategy with a focus on:

  • Helping Ontarians get better and faster access to the right care;
  • Providing better coordinated care — at or as close to home as possible;
  • Providing better information to help Ontarians make informed decisions about health and health care; and
  • Protecting and sustaining Ontario’s health care system for the future by increasing value through better coordinated care, illness prevention and evidence-based funding.

Progress since the 2015 Budget

Ontario continues to make progress to improve and sustain health care services, while restraining annual growth in health care spending.

Better Access to Care, Tools and Information

To make flu protection as easy and convenient as possible, the government is now offering parents a free nasal mist flu vaccine for their children and youth aged two to 17 as an alternative to an injection. The new vaccine for young people offers broader protection against more flu viruses, including one that affects children and youth more frequently than adults. To improve quality of care for seniors, the government is funding up to 75 new nurse practitioners in long-term care homes across Ontario over three years, including 30 new positions starting in the fall of 2015.

Health Links

Since the 2015 Budget, the government has expanded the number of community Health Links across Ontario from 69 to 82. Health Links are local groups of health care providers that collaborate to coordinate health care for more than 20,000 Ontario patients with the most complex needs — in their homes and communities.

Better Coordinated Care in the Community

In October, the government increased the maximum number of nursing care hours available for patients receiving care at home or in the community, as part of a three-year, $750 million investment in home care and community services.

Information for Sound Health Decisions

In May, the government passed the Making Healthier Choices Act, 2015. It helps families make healthier food choices by giving them caloric information when eating out or purchasing take-away meals. The Act also protects youth from the harmful effects of tobacco and the potential harms of electronic cigarettes.

In the fall, as part of the Healthy Kids Community Challenge, funding was provided to 45 Ontario communities so they can implement local programs as part of the Healthy Kids Strategy to help children stay healthy and reduce the risks and costs of childhood obesity.

The government also introduced the Health Information Protection Act in September that, if passed, would strengthen privacy protection for personal health information, while creating a strong foundation for the secure sharing of health records between health care providers.

Protecting and Sustaining Health Care

The government’s new $20 million Health Technology Innovation Evaluation Fund is supporting early adoption of home-grown innovative health technologies over four years.

To achieve better illness prevention, in the fall of 2015 the government will launch Immunization 2020, a five-year strategy to improve Ontario’s publicly funded immunization program.

Going Forward

To expand access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) for Ontarians with all forms of infertility, starting in December, the government will contribute to funding one IVF cycle per eligible patient for up to 4,000 Ontarians per year.

In 2016, a $20 million Transformation Fund will help small and rural hospitals collaborate with community care providers in integrated care networks to help improve access to higher-quality health services.