Introduction

Over the past three years, Ontario’s economy has grown faster than Canada’s and those of all other G7 countries. Today more Ontarians are working; the unemployment rate is 5.9 per cent and has been below the national average for 31 consecutive months. There have been 800,000 net new jobs added since the recession.

Too many hard-working people in Ontario are juggling responsibilities at school or work, while caring for children, parents and loved ones at home. The role of government is to create an environment where everyone can benefit from the growth the Province has created by delivering on a plan that has a positive impact on people’s everyday lives.

At its core, opportunity begins with good health. To ensure people in Ontario have the care they need, government is investing an additional $7 billion over three years in the health care system. Also, Ontario is making history as the first province in Canada to offer free prescription drug coverage for children and youth under age 25. This is one of the most significant expansions of medicare in a generation — and a major step towards universal drug coverage in this country.

A stable economy and good jobs are critical to improving people’s chances at success. The nature of work is changing, with more people retiring and an increasing demand for a highly skilled workforce. The government’s investment in child care and education positions Ontario to meet that challenge. Ontario is doubling the current capacity for licensed child care up to age four and providing free tuition to over 210,000 postsecondary students. The government is also making it more affordable for people to buy a home or rent an apartment.

The government will continue to make a difference in people’s lives by raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2019 and delivering the single largest reduction to electricity rates in Ontario’s history.

Ontario is also committed to addressing the varying needs and the overall well-being of its rapidly growing seniors’ population by increasing services and supports, including improving access to more long-term care beds.

Through its plan, the government is committed to creating opportunity and ensuring fairness for those who need it most.

Ensuring Fairness for Patients

Fair and timely access to health care services is essential for the functioning and well-being of a fair society. People in Ontario rely on universal access to health care services being available when they need it.

To meet the needs of patients today and in the future, in the 2017 Budget, Ontario announced that over the next three years, it would invest $7 billion more in health care than was set out in the 2016 Budget. These investments will improve access to care, reduce wait times, and enhance patients’ experiences and recoveries.

Increasing Provincewide Investments in Hospitals

Ontario’s hospitals are a central pillar of the health care system and have led the way in Canada with some of the shortest wait times for patients to access hip and knee replacement surgeries, MRIs and CT scans.1

Patients at hospitals across Ontario are benefiting from targeted investments that support better access to more procedures, new programs and digital technology advancements.

In 2017, Ontario is investing an additional $618 million in hospitals. To improve access to care for patients and families, and reduce wait times in hospitals, the government is making more than 1,200 additional hospital beds available across the province this year, with a $100 million investment. Ontario will also help patients continue to get the care they need as they transition from hospital to home by:

  • Providing 207 affordable housing units for seniors who need additional community supports when they are discharged from hospital;
  • Creating 503 transitional care spaces outside of hospitals for up to 1,700 patients who do not require hospital care; and
  • Reopening 150 beds at Humber River Hospital’s former Finch site and 75 beds at University Health Network’s former Hillcrest site in Toronto to provide care for those transitioning out of hospital.

Building, Renovating and Expanding Hospitals

The Province is making investments in health infrastructure through new and redeveloped hospital facilities, helping to expand services and improve patient care in priority areas. Over the next 10 years, Ontario plans to provide more than $20 billion in capital grants to hospitals. This includes the 2017 Budget commitment of approximately $9 billion to support the construction of new major hospital projects across the province. In addition, the Province is providing patients with high-quality care in safe and healthy environments by investing $175 million in 2017–18 to repair and upgrade 131 hospitals this year through the Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund (HIRF).

Chart 1.1: Examples of Hospital Construction and
Renewals in 2017–18

Chart 1.1: Examples of Hospital Construction and Renewals in 2017-18
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Improving Mental Health and Addictions Services

About 30 per cent of people in Ontario will experience mental illness or substance use disorder at some point in their lives. Recognizing that there is no health without mental health, the government is committed to ensuring that people living with mental illness or substance use disorder have access to the quality care and supports they need to live a healthy life, recover and thrive.

To improve services and care for anyone living with mental illness or addictions, and to support transitions between youth and adult services, the Province has been working with the Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council on the implementation of Ontario’s Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy.

Expanding Mental Health Services for Children and Youth

Approximately one in five children and youth in Ontario has a mental health challenge, and seven in 10 of all mental health challenges begin in childhood or adolescence. Early intervention can prevent or alleviate difficulties that can be associated with mental illness — homelessness, unemployment or incarceration — allowing people to live healthy and meaningful lives within their communities.

The government is committed to providing innovative, integrated approaches to identifying and intervening early in mental health and addiction issues among youth and young adults. This includes expanding and improving youth service hubs across the province, where young people aged 12 to 25 can receive walk-in, one-stop access to mental health and addictions services, as well as other health, social and employment supports under one roof.

Expanding Mental Health Services for College and University Students

Ontario recognizes the ongoing and rising need for mental health supports and services among postsecondary students. A survey of over 25,000 Ontario postsecondary students reported a 50 per cent increase in anxiety and a 47 per cent increase in depression between 2013 and 2016.2 To help ensure college and university students have access to mental health services and supports when and where they need them, the government is investing a total of $45 million over three years. This includes additional funding of $6 million per year, as announced in the 2017 Budget, which will support development and/or expansion of mental health services on campus.

Expanding Access to Publicly Funded Psychotherapy

Mild to moderate anxiety and depression disorders are among the most common mental health issues. Working in partnership with Health Quality Ontario, the government has found that structured psychotherapy reduces people’s symptoms, helps them with recovery and improves their quality of life.

To support more than 100,000 people with anxiety and/or depression, the government is investing close to $73 million over three years, as announced in the 2017 Budget, to expand structured psychotherapy programs. These investments make Ontario the first province to provide publicly funded structured psychotherapy, which includes group and individual therapy and online supports. Services will be provided by a range of regulated mental health professionals such as psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers, occupational therapists and nurses.

Providing More Housing with Mental Health Supports

Estimates suggest that 25 to 50 per cent of homeless people live with a mental health condition. Research shows that having a stable, supportive place to live is essential for maintaining mental health and can improve involvement in the community. That is why Ontario is investing more than $45 million over three years to provide up to 1,150 additional supportive housing units for those with serious mental illness or addictions.

Addressing the Opioid Crisis

Opioid misuse is the third leading cause of accidental death in Ontario. To strengthen the Province’s coordinated response to this public health emergency, the government introduced an opioid strategy, which includes establishing an Opioid Emergency Task Force to support a coordinated response to the crisis. The government is also funding a number of supervised injection services.

Ontario is investing $222 million over three years to fight the opioid crisis through supports that include:

  • Enhancing withdrawal management and rapid access to addiction services, as well as urgently needed community-level connections to longer term comprehensive care;
  • Immediate investments to help community-based addiction organizations, including hiring more front-line staff to provide counselling, case management and other wrap-around supports;
  • Creating new harm reduction and peer outreach worker positions to connect vulnerable populations with necessary harm reduction supports; and
  • Expanding the distribution of free naloxone kits.

Boosting Access to Primary Health Care

A growing number of people in Ontario are suffering from complex health conditions. Ontario continues to invest in interprofessional primary health care teams to address these complex needs, as well as those of all people in Ontario. These teams bring together diverse health professionals, including doctors, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, mental health workers, pharmacists, physiotherapists and other allied health professionals. They can offer faster access to the right care by the right provider, significantly improving health outcomes for their patients. Timely access to health care and ongoing monitoring of patients’ health can reduce unnecessary emergency room visits or other hospitalizations.

The government recognizes the benefits that these interprofessional primary care teams currently deliver across the province to more than four million people. Ontario is investing $248.4 million over three years to enhance capacity and support the expansion of interprofessional primary care teams, helping even more people across the province access coordinated health care. A variety of health care teams now serve patients across Ontario, including 82 Health Links — teams of local health care providers who coordinate care for patients with multiple, complex conditions, often seniors; 184 Family Health Teams; 75 Community Health Centres; 25 Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinics; and 10 Aboriginal Health Access Centres.

Supporting Health Care for People in Northern Ontario

Over half the residents in northern Ontario live in communities of 2,500 people or fewer. Northern communities deserve the same access to quality health care as other communities in Ontario. When residents need to travel to access care, the Province helps offset these costs through the Northern Health Travel Grant Program, which more than 600,000 people have accessed over the last three years. The 2017 Budget announced a $10 million expansion of the program.

To further support health care in northern Ontario:

  • The Northern Ontario School of Medicine has graduated a total of 526 new doctors since 2009;
  • Eight Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinics, 43 Family Health Teams, 11 Community Health Centres and six Aboriginal Health Access Centres serve patients across northern Ontario; and
  • Health care funding for northern Ontario includes $84.6 million for Public Health Units and $76 million for land ambulance services.

Equitable Health Care for Indigenous Peoples

In 2016, the Province began implementing Ontario’s First Nations Health Action Plan (OFNHAP) with an investment of close to $222 million over three years to improve access to equitable, culturally appropriate health care services for Indigenous peoples. While the OFNHAP focuses on northern First Nations, it also invests in Indigenous health care across Ontario, including home and community care, primary care, and diabetes prevention and management, both on- and off-reserve.

Meeting the Health Care Needs of the Francophone Community

The Province is improving access to quality French-language health services by fostering collaborative planning between Local Health Integration Networks, French language health planning entities and the community; improving data collection and monitoring; and strengthening accountability for the active offer of French-language health services.

Since October 2017, a new “health hub” in Limoges, Ontario, the Centre de santé communautaire de l’Estrie/Limoges Health Centre, has offered integrated physical, mental and community health care services to people in the rural communities of Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry, Prescott and Russell counties, which have large francophone populations. The centre focuses on high-quality preventive care, health promotion, chronic diseases, mental health and addictions, and diabetes education offered in both English and French.

Supporting Patients in Long-Term Care

Some seniors with complex needs caused by cognitive and physical decline, and conditions such as dementia, will require a higher level of support as they age. Many will require ongoing and intensive care that is currently provided in long-term care homes.

Recognizing that Ontario’s population is aging and creating more demand for long-term care, the Province will create 5,000 new long-term care beds by 2022. The government will prioritize these new beds for patients with the highest need, as well as those within hospitals who are ready to be discharged and require a long-term care home. New beds that serve specific cultural needs, including those of Indigenous populations, will also be prioritized. Over the next decade, the government will create over 30,000 new long-term care beds to keep pace with the growing and changing needs of the aging population.

The needs of long-term care residents are also becoming more complex, which is why the Province will increase the provincial average to four hours of direct care per resident per day. Once fully phased in, this will mean an additional 15 million hours of nursing, personal support and therapeutic care for long-term care residents across Ontario.

Further discussion and planning work is required on how best to staff the more diverse and complex needs of residents. The government intends to provide additional detail on the outcomes of these discussions as part of the 2018 Budget.

As announced in the 2017 Budget, Ontario also invested an additional $10 million in the Behavioural Supports Ontario (BSO) program to better meet the needs of residents with challenging and complex behaviours associated with dementia or other cognitive disorders. Through the program, specialized teams identify triggers that can lead to agitation or aggression, to better manage patient behaviours.

Expanding and Strengthening Home and Community Care

To ensure a smooth transition for patients who have been discharged from hospital and are returning home, the government is investing an additional $40 million in 2017 to help patients receive post-hospital and community care at home from registered nurses, care coordinators, personal support workers and other care providers.

Ontario has more than doubled funding for home and community care since 2003, to address increasing demographic pressures from an aging population and to help more people get the care they need, close to home and in the community. In addition to ongoing funding of more than $5 billion per year, the government has grown its investment in home and community care by about $250 million per year since 2013. These investments are providing the people of Ontario with greater access to nursing care, personal support and caregiver support at or close to home.

Chart 1.2: Home Care Services for Patients and Caregivers in 2017–18

Chart 1.2: Home Care Services for Patients and Caregivers in 2017–18
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Supporting People Affected by Dementia

It is estimated that approximately 194,000 people in Ontario have been diagnosed with dementia. This number is expected to grow to 206,000 by 2020 and more than 300,000 by 2038. The impacts of dementia can be substantial, not only for those living with dementia, but also for their families, friends and caregivers.

In 2017, the government launched a new three-year, $100 million Dementia Strategy to ensure that everyone living with dementia in Ontario, their families and their care partners have the right supports, funding and tools in place to make informed decisions about patient care, and to ensure that they are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve. These include:

  • Access to the most appropriate health care, home care and other supports from as early as possible once a diagnosis is made, so that people living with dementia and their families can better plan and continue to experience meaningful, active lives;
  • Improved training and education in dementia care for personal support workers, physicians, nurses and other front-line workers to help coordinate appropriate, easy-to-use services that enable people to continue to live at home and participate in the community;
  • Increased access to adult day and evening programs for dementia patients; and
  • More public education campaigns to raise awareness of risk factors for dementia and to reduce stigma.

Support for Caregivers

Caregivers — often unpaid family members, friends or neighbours — frequently report high levels of stress, sleep deprivation and depression. Additional responsibilities such as a job or a young family can further add to the physical, emotional and financial distress that caregivers experience.

Ontario is taking steps to make it easier for people who care for loved ones, through:

  • Additional care hours and transportation to local programs;
  • Enhanced caregiver respite services, at home or overnight, so caregivers can take breaks;
  • Improved coordination of care with stronger links between primary, specialist and community care providers;
  • A proposed new, streamlined Ontario Caregiver Tax Credit; and
  • The launch of a new caregiver organization in spring 2018, which will provide support and resources across the province, including a single access point for information, resources and services to help caregivers in their roles.

Supporting Compassionate End-of-Life Care

To provide compassionate palliative and end-of-life care for more patients and their families, Ontario is partnering with local communities to build hospice beds across the province. Through a new program announced in fall 2017, eligible hospices can apply for capital funding to supplement local fundraising efforts and support the creation of new and expanded hospices across Ontario. This funding will help with the construction or renovation costs of more than 190 beds that will allow over 2,000 additional clients to be served closer to their homes and families each year.

Residential hospices provide expert care in a home-like environment, giving families and friends the space and care they need to be with their loved ones at one of the most vulnerable times in their lives.

Fairness for Seniors

As the baby boom generation ages and life expectancy continues to increase, the number of people in Ontario over age 65 will nearly double over the coming decades. In fact, Ontario’s and Canada’s seniors’ populations now outnumber those of their children for the first time in history.

Chart 1.3: Ontario’s Aging Population, 1980–2040

Chart 1.3: Ontario’s Aging Population, 1980–2040
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Seniors are as diverse as any population in Ontario and have different requirements at different times of their lives. Half of Ontario’s seniors say they will require help over the next five to 10 years to access vital services such as transportation, and safe and affordable housing options; nearly half worry about social isolation; and over one-third have difficulty accessing information about community services. Also, as people grow older, disability can occur, health can decline, and functional capacity can decrease.

The government’s recent investments in long-term care and home and community care, as well as supports for those affected by dementia or requiring compassionate end-of-life care, reflect these demographic challenges and diverse needs.

Aging with Confidence: Ontario’s Action Plan for Seniors

Ontario is committed to helping seniors across Ontario age well and confidently, recognizing their diversity and giving them choices, with a variety of new initiatives.

That is why the government has introduced Aging with Confidence: Ontario’s Action Plan for Seniors, an ongoing commitment to seniors that builds on successful initiatives launched through the 2013 Ontario’s Action Plan for Seniors. The plan will support seniors so they can live independent, healthy, active, safe and socially connected lives.

Supporting All Seniors, Regardless of their Needs

Ontario is introducing a number of initiatives that will support all seniors, including:

  • Better community transportation in underserved communities, so seniors can connect with the services and supports they need;
  • A new “one-stop” website and a 24-hour phone line in over 150 languages with easy-to-find information about government services and supports for seniors;
  • Zero tolerance of elder abuse through strengthened prevention, awareness and response; and
  • A free high-dose flu vaccine, starting in fall 2018, that is more effective for older people.

Helping Seniors Living Independently in the Community

Ontario is helping seniors remain active, healthy and socially connected in their communities through initiatives such as:

  • Forty new Seniors Active Living Centres that will offer a wide variety of social, recreational and health programming, bringing the total number of such centres to more than 300 provincewide;
  • A special project that will connect youth volunteers with seniors to help them build their understanding of technology; and
  • An expanded Seniors Community Grant Program, which will fund more innovative community projects that help seniors stay active, healthy and engaged in their communities.

Helping Seniors Requiring Enhanced Supports at Home

For seniors who may require some supports to help them remain safe and independent at home, the Province will provide:

  • Increased access to both quality in-home health care and geriatric care;
  • Expanded home care through an estimated 2.6 million hours, including personal support services, nursing, physical and speech therapy, and respite services for caregivers;
  • Enhanced support for naturally occurring retirement communities, such as apartment buildings or housing developments, which will improve seniors’ access to coordinated home care based on local needs; and
  • A new organization for caregivers with easy-to-access supports and resources.

Helping Seniors Requiring Intensive Supports

Some seniors with complex needs caused by cognitive and physical decline will require ongoing and intensive care as they age. The Province will support them by:

  • Modernizing long-term care homes through redeveloping more than 30,000 long-term care beds in more than 300 long-term care homes by 2025;
  • Creating 5,000 new long-term care beds by 2022, as a first step towards creating over 30,000 beds over the next decade;
  • Undertaking planning work on approaches to increase the provincial average to four hours of direct care per resident per day, once fully phased in; and
  • Expanding compassionate palliative and end-of-life care.

Supporting Families with Children

Investing in children’s health, well-being and education is vital to giving them the best start in life. That is why the government is making critical investments to support fairness for Ontario’s families.

Affordable, high-quality child care is essential for families. Parents need peace of mind, knowing that they will be able to access child care close to home, while also being able to afford it. Yet for too many, child care is unavailable or unaffordable, or has a significant wait time. Ontario is committed to ensuring that financial means are not the basis for access to reliable child care.

Parents should never have to choose between paying for their children’s prescription medications and other life essentials. The government remains committed to providing equitable access to health care for everyone in Ontario, including removing financial barriers for those who cannot afford prescription drugs.

The government is also committed to giving students not only the best education, but the best supports possible to improve well-being, ensure better equity for all students and advance student achievement even further.

Making Child Care More Accessible and Affordable

The Province is helping 100,000 more children access licensed child care and working towards universal accessibility for families all across the province. In 2017–18, Ontario is dedicating $200 million to help 24,000 additional children up to age four access licensed child care. This includes new fee subsidy spaces for 16,000 more children up to four years old, which will reduce waitlists for low- and middle-income families.

Ontario continues to work with Indigenous partners to help provide access to culturally relevant child and family programs and licensed child care. This includes increasing the number of child care spaces off-reserve and expanding five existing child and family programs on-reserve.

Providing More Before- and After-School Programs

Parents’ and caregivers’ schedules often differ from school hours, making access to before- and after-school programs essential for many families. The government recognizes this need and is committed to making sure that children up to age 12 can access safe, quality programming.

OHIP+ — Ensuring Fairness for Parents, Children and Youth

Beginning January 1, 2018, OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare will launch, making Ontario the first Province in Canada to provide prescription drug coverage for everyone under the age of 25, regardless of family income.

More than four million children and young people will be able to get their prescription medications for free by simply showing their Ontario health card number and a prescription. This includes over 4,400 medicines currently available through the Ontario Drug Benefit Program, including antibiotics for infections, asthma inhalers, insulins and other diabetes medications, as well as some drugs for cancer and rare diseases.

Improving Youth Well-Being and Achievement

As Ontario continues to strive for excellence in the education system, there is more work to do to ensure that all students succeed. Children who have strong relationships and a positive sense of self are in a better position to reach their full potential. That is why the government is moving forward with an increased focus on student and youth well-being.

Focusing on Well-Being

The Province is committed to programs, both inside and outside the classroom, to help improve students’ well-being. The 2017 Budget committed to spending $49 million over three years to develop and strengthen programs that improve students’ cognitive, emotional, social and physical development. In September 2017, the Province announced investments in the following new and expanded programs:

  • Funding for active transportation, including walking school buses and bike-to-school programs that create more physical activity opportunities for students;
  • Doubled funding for school boards to support local well-being priorities, including school breakfast programs, bullying prevention, recreational activities and staff professional development; and
  • Increased funding for School Mental Health ASSIST, a provincial support team that provides leadership, resources and other support to help boards promote student mental health and well-being across Ontario.

Helping Student Achievement

Ontario’s school curriculum is being updated to improve student achievement in core skills and increase focus on transferable life skills. Provincial assessment practices will be reviewed to ensure that they are culturally relevant, measure a wider range of learning, and better reflect student well-being and equity. To better communicate all aspects of student achievement, new report cards are being developed and will be sent to parents starting in the next school year.

Ensuring Equity and Inclusion

Ontario is making the education system fairer and more inclusive for all students by identifying and eliminating systemic barriers, as well as better supporting students in their future pathways. The Province committed over $7 million in 2017–18 for the implementation of Ontario’s Education Equity Action Plan, a roadmap to identifying and eliminating discriminatory and systemic practices, barriers and biases from schools and classrooms.

Key areas of action include:

  • Introducing a renewed approach to Grade 9, enabling all students to better explore pathways to work, college, apprenticeship and university;
  • Identifying and addressing disparities in suspension, expulsion and exclusion rates among certain student populations;
  • Ensuring that school and classroom practices reflect and respond to the diversity of all students and staff, so that they reflect the needs and realities of all students; and
  • Ensuring that the diversity of the teachers, staff and school system leaders in Ontario schools reflects the diversity of their students through recruitment, hiring and promotion of educators and school and system leaders.

Helping Parents and Children by Enhancing Autism Supports

Ontario has significantly expanded a range of dedicated supports in schools for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), including:

  • Specialized training of over 30,000 educators in applied behaviour analysis methods to support students with ASD;
  • Dedicated transition teams for students with ASD receiving intensive support transitioning from community services into full-time school; and
  • New after-school skills development programs.

Through these investments, the number of students with ASD attending postsecondary has increased by four times since 2009. But more needs to be done to support students, families and educators.

That is why Ontario is improving school-based supports for students with ASD by launching a new pilot project for the 2017–18 school year. The pilot is available in 18 school boards and aims to improve the experiences of children and their families. Through training and professional expertise, the pilot will also work to improve the capacity of school teams to provide skilled support to students with ASD.

Improving Access to Services for Children with Special Needs

Ontario is working to develop services and supports for children and youth with special needs to ensure they get timely and effective services as they transition to adulthood. This year, the Province announced an investment of up to $31 million to support the construction of a new facility for Grandview Children’s Centre in Durham Region. This new facility will create more treatment space, shorten wait times and help ensure families get access to the care they need sooner. The Province supports 21 Children’s Treatment Centres and helps more than 76,000 children and youth receive rehabilitation services such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech language therapy.

Supporting Education in Rural and Northern Ontario

From April to June 2017, the government held provincewide consultations to seek input on how to strengthen education in rural and northern Ontario. In response to feedback from students, parents, educators and communities, the government took immediate action by boosting key supports, including a new $20 million Rural and Northern Education Fund. This fund will help students by enhancing programming such as French immersion, arts education and guidance counselling, and by improving student access through options such as late bus runs and mobile e-learning through tablets or Wi-Fi.

Additionally, the government is overhauling the process that school boards use to review schools for potential closure to allow for further community consultation. It will provide supplementary funding of $1.2 million to encourage school boards to share space with each other and community partners to maintain a presence in communities. For more information on community hubs, see Chapter II: Creating Opportunities for Everyone.

Investing In Education Infrastructure

Across the province, Ontario is investing almost $16 billion in capital grants over 10 years in new and improved schools, which will help deliver high-quality programs and increase student achievement and well-being. These capital investments are essential to address enrolment growth, renovate schools in poor condition and ensure students across the province have fair access to quality education infrastructure.

In September, students returned to class in new or renovated learning spaces in more than 50 schools in communities across the province. These investments will provide students with a better place to learn and grow for this school year and for years to come.

Chart 1.4: Examples of Schools to Be Opened or Under
Construction in 2017–18

Chart 1.4: Examples of Schools to Be Opened or Under Construction in 2017–18
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A Better Way Forward: Ontario’s Commitment to Fight Systemic Racism

Implementing the Ontario Black Youth Action Plan

In March 2017, the government introduced the Ontario Black Youth Action Plan, the first of its kind in Canada, which will support more than 10,000 Black youth and their families. Under the plan, the government recently announced the launch of new culturally focused programs for Black children and youth that will provide them with mentorship and career opportunities to build skills for school and work and create new pathways into the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professions. These programs will support up to 30 locally developed mentorship and training initiatives that are being designed with community partners and businesses in priority communities, including the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, Ottawa and Windsor.

Helping Students

Fairness for Postsecondary Students

Access to a postsecondary education should not be based on ability to pay — it should be based on desire to learn. It is important that everyone who wishes to pursue higher learning is able to do so in a way that is affordable. That is why Ontario is reducing financial barriers for students from low- and middle-income families.

This year, average tuition is free for more than 210,000 Ontario students, and costs have been reduced for many more. Most Ontario students are receiving more aid than they were eligible for previously.

In this school year so far, compared to the same time last year:

  • The number of total OSAP awards increased by nearly 20 per cent;
  • The number of low-income OSAP recipients increased by about 20 per cent;
  • The number of OSAP recipients self-identifying as Indigenous increased by 35 per cent; and
  • The number of mature students receiving OSAP increased by 32 per cent.

See Chapter II: Creating Opportunities for Everyone for more information on the changes to OSAP.

Fairness for Workers

Over the past three years, Ontario’s economy has continued to grow, jobs are being created, incomes are rising and the unemployment rate has declined to 5.9 per cent in October. However, not everyone is benefiting. The workplace has changed and some workers are facing low pay, uncertain hours, and few benefits or protections. Some are struggling to support their families on part-time, contract or minimum-wage work.

The government has introduced the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017, which builds on its 2017 Budget commitment to modernize Ontario’s employment and labour laws to help safeguard employees, ensure fairer workplaces and support better jobs. The Act, if passed, would:

  • Raise the minimum wage to $14 on January 1, 2018 and to $15 on January 1, 2019, which will ensure that hundreds of thousands of workers will receive a raise;
  • Ensure part-time workers are paid the same hourly wage as full-time workers;
  • Introduce paid sick days for every worker;
  • Ensure all employees are entitled to 10 personal emergency leave days per year;
  • Ensure at least three weeks’ vacation after five years with the same employer; and
  • Step up enforcement of employment laws.

The government appreciates that these significant benefits are also not without some associated costs. It is committed to working with its delivery partners such as those in the broader public sector and the not-for-profit sector, to help ensure they successfully manage the transition in the lead-up to January 1, 2018 and beyond.

Strengthening and Modernizing Retirement Security

With two-thirds of Ontario workers not participating in workplace pension plans and many families worried about how they will maintain their standard of living in retirement, strengthening and modernizing retirement security continues to be a priority for this government. As well, current economic realities are putting pressure on sponsors of existing defined benefit pension plans, highlighting a need to address plan sustainability and benefit security.

To modernize and strengthen retirement security, Ontario is undertaking key transformative changes that include the following initiatives:

  • Ontario’s leadership in designing and developing the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan was instrumental in achieving the historic agreement to enhance the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). Once fully implemented, the CPP enhancement will improve the retirement security and future quality of life of many of today’s workers, particularly those without workplace pension plans, by providing them with a meaningful, lifelong increase in their retirement incomes. For example, individuals earning $40,000 annually over their working lives will contribute only an extra $1 per day, but receive an additional $3,222 annually in retirement as a result of the enhancement. These new benefits will be indexed annually to help retirees keep up with cost-of-living increases.
  • Ontario has announced a new framework for defined benefit pension plans that includes certain measures intended to help protect workers’ retirement benefits, while enabling businesses to grow and be more competitive. Similarly, a framework for target benefit multi-employer pension plans was announced to help ensure these plans are sustainable over the long term.

The government is also exploring new approaches to help retirees draw down their savings in an efficient, cost-effective manner and help ensure their savings last throughout retirement.

Improving Income Security and Mobilizing Community Solutions to Reduce Poverty

As part of building a fairer Ontario, the government is committed to providing effective social services and working to ensure that everyone shares in the province’s economic growth.

Launching a Basic Income Pilot

A wide range of research shows that living in poverty and working in precarious jobs can impact the health and well-being of individuals and their families. To develop evidence-based ways of supporting lower-income people in today’s changing economy, the Province launched a three-year Basic Income Pilot in spring 2017.

The pilot is testing whether a basic income could be a simpler and more effective way to provide income support, while improving food security, housing stability, physical and mental health, and access to health care. It is also exploring the effect of a basic income on participation in education and employment.

To reflect Ontario’s diverse communities, three pilot locations representative of the province’s socioeconomic and demographic profile were chosen.

Since the launch of the pilot, more than 500 participants in Hamilton, the Brantford and Brant County area, Thunder Bay and surrounding area, and Lindsay have started to receive a basic income, with more applications being processed.

Engagement will continue with First Nations and provincial and territorial organizations on a First Nations Basic Income Pilot.

Enhancing Social Assistance Benefits

Ontario’s social assistance programs are an important part of the income security system. Since 2013, the government has implemented improvements to Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, including increasing rates, particularly for those with the lowest incomes and those living in higher-cost remote and northern communities. Other improvements have included:

  • Making sure single-parent families benefit fully from the child support payments they may receive in addition to social assistance;
  • Increasing the income exemption for cash gifts, to recognize that people may also rely on the support of family or friends; and
  • Raising asset limits, so that individuals can avoid depleting all of their assets before getting help.

Building on this progress, the 2017 Budget committed to investing more than $480 million over four years to further enhance benefits. This funding will help provide better supports for more than 900,000 people across Ontario.

In addition, Ontario has received the report from the Income Security Reform Working Group’s, Income Security: A Roadmap for Change. The government is reviewing the report and will use it, along with the public’s feedback, to help guide decisions on a multi-year path for reforming the income security system.

Mobilizing Community Solutions through the Local Poverty Reduction Fund

Research has shown that food security improves mental health, reduces risks of chronic disease and lowers health care expenditure overall. Ontario is supporting an additional 48 community-led projects through the third round of the Local Poverty Reduction Fund with an investment of over $16 million. Announced this year, the fund is supporting 14 programs that will increase food security while improving livelihoods and social inclusion. These projects focus on local community partnerships, which will help communities develop better solutions to increasing food security, reducing child poverty and homelessness, and helping people prepare for employment opportunities.

Improving Housing Affordability

Implementing the Fair Housing Plan

The government strives to make it more affordable for the people of Ontario to buy or rent a home.

While rising housing prices reflect the strength of the economy and provide a net benefit to homeowners, they also create inequity as well as affordability challenges for individuals and families that are trying to buy a home or find rental accommodation.  

In response to these challenges, on April 20, 2017, the government announced the Fair Housing Plan, a comprehensive package of measures to help more people find affordable homes, increase supply, protect buyers and renters, and bring stability to the real estate market.

The latest data show that the housing market is stabilizing and that the Fair Housing Plan measures are beginning to have the intended effect of making housing more affordable.

Since reaching a peak in March, the average resale price and number of Ontario home resales moved lower over the next few months before stabilizing shortly thereafter. Ontario’s average home resale price was $556,000 in September 2017, down from $642,000 in March. See Chapter III, Section B: Economic Outlook for further details.

Chart 1.5: Ontario Resale Housing Market

Chart 1.5: Ontario Resale Housing Market
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The comprehensive package of measures announced as part of the Fair Housing Plan includes:

  • Implementing the Non-Resident Speculation Tax to help make housing more affordable in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region;
  • Expanding rent control to all private market rental units across the province to protect tenants from unfair rent increases;
  • Improving fairness of property taxation for apartment buildings;
  • Working with municipalities and stakeholders to provide municipalities with additional tools to increase housing supply, including new rental developments;
  • Unlocking surplus provincial land to create more than 2,000 new rental housing units with a mix of market-based and affordable units;
  • Updating the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2017, with new requirements for intensification, density targets and housing mix to support the supply of housing to meet the needs of people at any age; and
  • Enhancing consumer protections by proposing improvements to real estate practices.

As part of the Fair Housing Plan, the government has also established forums to identify opportunities for addressing key issues related to housing supply, including:

  • A Housing Delivery Group — Working with developers and municipalities to cut red tape and bring specific housing projects to market faster;
  • A Development Approvals Roundtable — Working with senior representatives from the development and municipal sectors to identify opportunities to support more housing coming to market; releasing an action plan3 that focuses on modernizing and streamlining residential approval processes; developing new guidance materials; and promoting improved sharing of common, standardized housing-related data; and
  • A Housing Forum — Collaborating with housing partners to assess the impacts of the Fair Housing Plan and discuss potential additional steps.

Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan

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

Electricity is an essential part of people’s daily lives. Following years of underinvestment, the system was due for major upgrades. Since 2003, almost $70 billion has been invested in electricity infrastructure across the province to ensure people and businesses benefit from a cleaner, more modern and more reliable system.

The much-needed rebuilding of an aging electricity system resulted in rapidly rising rates for people and businesses across Ontario. The government recognized that present-day consumers should not be burdened with paying for a disproportionate share of investments that can provide benefits for decades to come.

For this reason, the government announced Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan in March 2017. A portion of the Global Adjustment, which helps pay for investments in electricity supply and conservation, is being refinanced and will be recovered from ratepayers over a longer period of time. The spreading of this refinancing and cost recovery from ratepayers in the future over a longer period reflects the expected longer life cycle of existing facilities and is providing significant and immediate rate relief, helping to ensure intergenerational fairness.

The average 25 per cent electricity bill reduction also reflects a number of other components that are government funded, including providing the eight per cent rebate on electricity bills, equal to the provincial portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax, which was effective January 1, 2017; and removing the cost of the Ontario Electricity Support Program and most of the Rural or Remote Rate Protection program from electricity consumers’ bills.

As of July 1, 2017, electricity bills have been reduced by 25 per cent on average, or about $41 per month, for eligible households. Approximately half a million eligible small businesses and farms are also receiving a benefit. As part of this plan, rate increases over four years will be held to the rate of inflation. While rates will rise gradually over time, the government remains committed to avoiding sharp increases.

Due to a number of initiatives the government is implementing — including Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan, the Independent Electricity System Operator’s market renewal initiative, and other efficiency and productivity improvements to the system — Ontario’s 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) projects lower monthly bills for residential consumers than previously forecasted.

Chart 1.6: Monthly Electricity Bill Outlook — Residential Consumers

Chart 1.6: Monthly Electricity Bill Outlook — Residential Consumers
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Providing Additional Support through Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan

People with low incomes and those living in eligible rural or remote communities are receiving even greater reductions, as much as 40 to 50 per cent. On-reserve First Nation residential customers of licensed distributors are getting a 100 per cent credit on the delivery line of their bills.

Also, in October 2017, the Province announced the launch of the $100 million Affordability Fund, designed to help people who do not qualify for low-income conservation programs and who are unable to undertake energy-efficiency improvements without support.

Chart 1.7: Additional Support through Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan

Chart 1.7: Additional Support through Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan
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Fairness in the Justice System

The government is transforming Ontario’s justice system to protect the interests of all people — victims, the public and the accused — while increasing community safety. Ontario continues to improve the justice system to make it faster, fairer and more accessible to the people of Ontario.

Transforming the Justice System

The government recognizes that changes are required to strengthen public confidence in the justice system, break down systemic barriers, and develop more positive relationships between the police and the public. Key transformational initiatives underway include:

  • Enhancing Police Oversight — The government is introducing new legislation this year to enhance the independence of Ontario’s police oversight system and modernize the policing framework.
  • Reforming the Corrections System — The Province continues to undertake broad reform of Ontario’s corrections system. The government is consulting on new corrections legislation, planning new correctional facilities in Thunder Bay and Ottawa, and researching independent oversight models that would enhance accountability to the public. Reforms to the corrections system would be supported by Ontario’s new bail directive, which aims to reduce pre-trial custody.
  • Streamlining and Modernizing the Court System
    • The government is introducing legislation to modernize the provincial offences courts, including streamlining procedures for resolving disputes over traffic tickets and other minor Provincial offences; and
    • The government has appointed 13 new Provincial court judges, an increase of five per cent, to support more effective and timely case progression, bringing Ontario’s complement of full-time Ontario Court of Justice judges to 299.
  • Transforming Youth Justice — Ontario has shifted from a predominantly custody-focused youth justice system to a system that offers a broad range of evidence-informed community and custodial services to address the needs of youth, their families and communities. Through a focus on prevention and diversion, the youth crime rate in Ontario has decreased by 48 per cent since 2003, the number of custody admissions has decreased by 85 per cent, and nine out of 10 youth who receive justice services can now do so within their own communities.

Ensuring Women’s Safety and Security

Safety and security are foundational to the government’s support of women, and the Province has made serious commitments to better protect women in Ontario.

Protecting a Woman’s Right to Choose

Women in Ontario have the right to choose and access abortion services without fear of interference, intimidation or harassment. The Province has introduced and passed the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act, 2017, which will protect the safety, security, health and privacy of women and health care providers by allowing for safe access zones to be established around clinics and facilities that offer abortion services, the homes of clinic staff, and the homes and offices of other regulated health professionals who provide these services. The legislation prohibits harassing conduct directed at clinic staff and regulated health professionals who provide abortion services. The legislative process included consultations to ensure that the voices of those impacted were heard and their insights were reflected in the legislation.

Protecting Women from Violence and Harassment

Ontario has been a leader in combatting violence against women through a number of key initiatives. The government introduced and passed the survivor-centred Anti-Human Trafficking Act, 2017. This builds on the government’s Strategy to End Human Trafficking. The Province is also implementing two other cross-government plans to end violence against women: Ontario’s Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment, and Walking Together: Ontario’s Long-Term Strategy to End Violence Against Indigenous Women.

See Chapter II: Creating Opportunities for Everyone for more information.

Protecting Consumers

Regulating Financial Planners

To ensure that consumers have access to high-quality financial planning services that will benefit their long-term financial well-being, the government plans to develop legislation to regulate financial planners in Ontario. Under the proposed framework, financial planners would be required to meet specified proficiency requirements. The government will also take steps to reduce consumer confusion created by the wide variety of titles used in the industry, by restricting the use of titles related to financial planning. Moving forward, the government will consult extensively with stakeholders in shaping the proposed framework.

Syndicated Mortgages

Ontario is moving forward with regulatory changes that will strengthen protections for investors in syndicated mortgages. This includes expanding requirements to ensure that mortgage brokers provide investors with the information they need to effectively assess their level of risk when investing in these products.

The government is reviewing the feedback received over the last few months through consultations on potential changes to regulations under the Mortgage Brokerages, Lenders and Administrators Act, 2006 that would:

  • Establish investment limits on these products to prevent retail investors from becoming overly concentrated in an investment that carries a high risk; and
  • Require mortgage brokerages to document their assessments of whether a product is suitable for their clients to ensure that only investors who can tolerate the high risks associated with these products are investing in them.

The Province also plans to propose amendments to the Securities Act to facilitate the eventual transfer of regulatory oversight of syndicated mortgage investments from the Financial Services Commission of Ontario to the securities regulator. This would be consistent with how these products are regulated in other provinces.

Auto Insurance

The government continues to work to further lower auto insurance rates in Ontario. In April 2017, the government received the report, Fair Benefits Fairly Delivered: A Review of the Auto Insurance System in Ontario from David Marshall, Ontario’s advisor on auto insurance. The report highlights structural flaws in the auto insurance system that significantly hinder sustainable rate reduction, as well as the lack of active management of care for victims. The report also outlines a five-part action plan with key recommendations aimed at:

  • Improving how the most common injuries are treated and managed, so that accident victims receive more timely care and further impairments do not develop due to delayed treatment;
  • Establishing a system of single neutral medical assessments to provide patients with the best care options;
  • Implementing lifetime management of care for catastrophically injured individuals;
  • Creating a strong, independent auto insurance regulator that is more proactive and empowered to address flaws in the system; and
  • Reviewing the auto insurance rate regulation framework to enable more innovation and competition that would give a greater number of options to consumers.

In August and September 2017, the government consulted on the report’s recommendations.

In the coming weeks, the government will announce new measures aimed at transforming important aspects of auto insurance to create a more efficient system focused on timely care for victims and sustained savings for consumers.

Protecting Innocent Co-Insureds

Insurance companies in Ontario can deny payment of claims for loss of property due to a policyholder’s intentional or criminal act or omission. Currently, when two or more individuals are co-insured under the same insurance policy, an insurer can deny payment to everyone who is insured, regardless of whether or not they were involved or had knowledge of an event that caused damage.

To provide increased protection for innocent policyholders, the government is proposing changes that would prohibit insurance companies from denying claims from innocent co-insured policyholders. The amendments would:

  • Ensure fair treatment of innocent co-insureds, including victims of domestic violence and abuse;
  • Have little or no impact on insurance premiums; and
  • Provide a level of protection similar to Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba.

Footnotes

[1] Canadian Institute for Health Information. Wait Times for Priority Procedures in Canada, 2017.

[2] American College Health Association – National College Health Assessment (Ontario Canada Reference Group), Spring 2016.

[3] http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page16623.aspx

Chart Descriptions

Chart 1.1: Examples of Hospital Construction and Renewals in 2017–18

This map shows health infrastructure projects across Ontario completed, under construction or in planning.

North: Dryden Regional Health Centre is receiving funding for infrastructure upgrades and replacements to ensure patients continue to receive high-quality care in a safe environment. Atikokan General Hospital is building a new addition and renovating existing space to support integrated acute and long-term care for the community. Construction is expected to be complete in fall 2017.

Eastern: Renfrew Victoria Hospital is receiving funding to address critical infrastructure needs through elevator and window replacements. University of Ottawa Heart Institute is undergoing construction on a new tower and renovations are underway to the existing facility to expand cardiac surgery services and facilities. Construction is expected to be complete in fall 2019.

Central: Hamilton Health Sciences is receiving funding for upgrades to its fire alarms and elevators to improve the quality of its facilities. Michael Garron Hospital Redevelopment involves the construction of a new patient care tower and renovation to the existing hospital facility. The project will enable the delivery of high-quality patient care by replacing beds in the medical/surgical and rehabilitation units, replacing the mental health inpatient units, and consolidating ambulatory care and procedures.

Southwest: Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital is receiving renewal funding for electrical system replacements. St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital Redevelopment Project will provide residents with access to expanded programs and services in a new state-of-the-art tower, which will accommodate the Emergency Department, Surgical Suites, and Inpatient and Outpatient Mental Health Services.

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Chart 1.2: Home Care Services for Patients and Caregivers in 2017–18

The chart depicts a breakdown of hours of home care that patients and caregivers can receive, as follows:

  • 1.5 million hours of personal support services, including bathing, dressing and exercising;
  • 600,000 hours of respite services for caregivers, including personal support or nursing;
  • 390,000 hours of nursing care; and
  • 110,000 hours of therapy, including speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy.

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Chart 1.3: Ontario’s Aging Population, 1980–2040

This chart shows the share of Ontario’s population for children and seniors in 1980, 2000, 2020 and 2040. In 1980, 22.1 per cent of Ontarians were children aged 0 to 14, and 9.7 per cent were seniors (65+). In 2000, 19.6 per cent of Ontarians were children, and 12.5 per cent were seniors. In 2020, children will account for 15.7 per cent of Ontario’s total population, and seniors, 18.0 per cent. By 2040, 15.0 per cent of Ontarians will be children aged 0–14, and 24.9 per cent will be seniors.

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Chart 1.4: Examples of Schools to Be Opened or Under Construction in 2017–18

This map shows examples of schools to be opened or under construction in 2017–18.

North: St. Basil Elementary School — Renovations to this school in Sault Ste. Marie have created a school that will serve 619 elementary students from junior kindergarten to Grade 8. The facility also includes three child care rooms.

Eastern: Vimy Ridge Public School — This new school in Ottawa will serve 674 elementary students from junior kindergarten to Grade 8. St. Martin of Tours Catholic Elementary School — This school in South Algonquin will undergo a major retrofit to accommodate students from Whitney Elementary School, located in an adjacent school board, and create a joint-use school facility between two school boards.

Central: École élémentaire publique le Flambeau — This new elementary school in Mississauga will serve 366 students from junior kindergarten to Grade 6. The facility will also include three child care rooms. École secondaire catholique Père-Philippe Lamarche — This new secondary school in Toronto will provide French-language education for 500 students from Grades 7 to 12 in a modern and accessible facility. St. Eugene Catholic Elementary School — This school in Toronto added space for 308 new students and undertook some internal retrofits to address growing enrolment in the area. The project included the addition of a new gymnasium.

Southwest: Sir Arthur Currie Public School — This new school in London will serve 533 elementary students from junior kindergarten to Grade 8.The facility will also include five child care rooms and four child and family support rooms. Cardinal Carter Catholic Secondary School — Major retrofits were undertaken at Cardinal Carter Catholic Secondary School in Leamington to accommodate students in Grades 7 and 8 from surrounding elementary schools.

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Chart 1.5: Ontario Resale Housing Market

The first line chart shows Ontario’s monthly home resales in units from January 2010 to September 2017. Ontario’s home resales grew from about 15,000 in January 2014 to over 22,500 in March 2017. Home resales have since declined, to about 16,400 in September 2017. The second line chart shows Ontario’s average home resale prices in dollars from January 2010 to September 2017. Ontario’s average home resale price increased from $333,000 in June 2010 to a peak of $642,000 in March 2017. Average resales prices declined to $539,000 in June 2017 and have since increased to about $556,000 in September 2017.

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Chart 1.6: Monthly Electricity Bill Outlook — Residential Consumers

Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan 2017 (LTEP) outlook for residential monthly electricity bills shows progress compared to earlier outlooks in the 2010 and 2013 LTEPs. The residential price outlook in the 2017 LTEP remains below the 2013 LTEP outlook for the full forecast horizon to 2032 and beyond.

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Chart 1.7: Additional Support through Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan

Broadening the distribution rate protection program provides electricity customers consuming 750 kilowatt-hours per month savings of up to $180 per year. About 800,000 customers could benefit.

Expanding the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) provides average savings of approximately $680 per year. About 193,000 households are receiving OESP.

Providing a First Nations On-Reserve Delivery Charge Credit which provides average savings of $1,020 per year. About 21,500 households benefit.

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