Introduction

Ontario businesses — whether large or small, local or global — contribute significantly to economic growth and share in the increased spending and activity that go hand-in-hand with a strong economy. This benefits workers and families across the province.

The Province is projecting to balance the budget for the first time since the 2008–09 global recession. Through targeted, measured and fiscally responsible decisions, Ontario has restored its fiscal and economic strength.

The province’s net debt-to-GDP ratio peaked in 2014–15 at 39.3 per cent and, as a result of Ontario’s economic growth and the government’s progress towards a balanced budget, is projected to decline to 37.3 per cent in 2017–18.

It is because of this position of strength that the government can continue to support opportunities for growth across regions and industries.

The Province is committed to building a dynamic and competitive business environment by investing in small and medium-sized businesses, securing its position as a global hub for FinTech growth, increasing international trade and building tomorrow’s infrastructure today, while tackling climate change and transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

None of this would be possible without investing in Ontario’s first priority: its people. The Province is also committed to developing the talents and skills of Ontario’s students and workers at every age and stage so they can thrive in a rapidly changing economy.

Strengthening Ontario’s Small Businesses

$500 Million to Grow Small Businesses and Reduce Costs

About one-third of Ontario workers are employed by small businesses, which have always been significant contributors to the success of the provincial economy. These businesses have experienced slower growth since the global recession relative to larger firms. They have been challenged by risks and factors beyond their control, such as globalization, rapid technological change and the impacts of climate change.

In this document, the Province is announcing more than $500 million in new initiatives, over three years, for small business that will lower costs and support growth, including:

  • A proposed 22 per cent cut in the small business Corporate Income Tax (CIT) rate;
  • New incentives to hire and retain youth;
  • Financial support for small and medium-sized fruit and vegetable farming businesses;
  • Investments to enhance the vibrancy of communities and main streets;
  • A pilot program to improve access to financing;
  • A “one-window” service to make it easier for small businesses to interact with government;
  • Initiatives to provide better access to government procurement opportunities;
  • Making government inspections more efficient for businesses with good compliance records; and
  • Providing businesses with more flexibility to meet government regulatory requirements.

Other recently announced Provincial measures are providing more than $400 million in supports for small businesses. In addition, they will realize significant savings from Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) average premium rate reductions, with an estimated total value of more than $800 million over the next three years. Overall, these supports for Ontario’s small businesses will total $1.9 billion over three years. Recently proposed changes to the federal small business CIT rate provide additional support of nearly $500 million over three years for the sector. 

Cutting Small Business Costs

Cutting the Ontario Small Business CIT Rate

Small businesses in Ontario currently benefit from a lower CIT rate of 4.5 per cent on their first $500,000 of active business income.

To provide increased support for small businesses and enhance their competitiveness, the Province is proposing to cut the small business CIT rate to 3.5 per cent, effective January 1, 2018. This would represent a 22 per cent reduction in the CIT rate for small businesses.

See Chapter V, Section A: Business Taxation for more details.

Enhancing Support for Youth Employment in Small Businesses

Small businesses are facing a challenge hiring and retaining their workforce in an environment where technology is rapidly advancing. Small businesses also disproportionately employ young workers. That is why Ontario will provide $124 million over three years in supports for youth ages 15 to 29 years, working with Employment Service and Youth Job Connection to support employer hiring and retention beginning January 1, 2018. Through Ontario’s Employment Service program, a small employer with fewer than 100 employees would receive a $1,000 incentive for hiring a young worker and a $1,000 for retaining that worker for six months.

Additionally, if workers are hired through Youth Job Connection, a separate program that recruits youth facing employment barriers, employers would receive retention payments of $1,000 after three months, with a further $1,000 payable after six months for each worker.

Increasing Competitiveness of Ontario’s Farmers

The edible horticulture sector is facing significant challenges adapting to the changing business environment and continues to compete as price-takers in the global market. To help this important sector, the government will invest $60 million in focused supports for producers of locally grown fruits and vegetables, and other edible horticultural products. Eligible producers will receive payments for two years based on eligible net sales.

Supporting Small Business Growth

Investing in Main Street to Create Opportunities for Small Businesses

Small businesses in downtowns and main street areas often struggle to compete with large business establishments and experience other challenges such as e‑commerce. Healthy and vibrant main streets can benefit businesses and property owners, as well as residents and community organizations. The Province is moving forward with an additional investment of $40 million for an enhancement fund to strengthen communities’ promotional planning and implementation activities, as well as providing direct business support for capital improvements, enhanced digital capabilities and improvements to energy efficiencies.

Increasing Access to Capital to Help Small Businesses Invest

Improved access to financing can be crucial in helping small businesses grow. New technologies in financial services (FinTech) can provide small business better access to capital and lower financing costs. In order to gain access to capital, some FinTech providers are looking to enter into strategic partnerships with institutional lenders and governments. The Province is investing $8 million in a pilot program to help small businesses access financing by enabling partnerships between FinTech firms and institutional lenders.

See the section Embracing Financial Technology later in this chapter for more details on the government’s efforts to position Ontario as a leader in FinTech.

Making It Easier to Access Government Services and Supports

Small businesses want to be focused on running and growing their business. To make it easier for them, the Province is launching the Small Business Access Service, a “one-window service” that will provide resources online and over the phone to make it easier for small businesses to interact with the government and get the supports they need. The government has partnered with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and is working with small businesses to promote awareness of this new dedicated service.

Designating Procurement Opportunities for Small Businesses

The Ontario government procures a wide range of goods and services. Providing fairer access to procurement opportunities could be critical in helping small businesses grow. As announced last month, Ontario will designate 33 per cent of its procurement spending to small and medium-sized businesses by 2020, which will be supported by initiatives to improve the process, making it easier for businesses to submit bids. The Province is also exploring options to eliminate or reimburse the fees businesses pay when doing business with the government through the Ontario Tenders Portal, and the Registry, Appraisal and Qualification System for road maintenance.

Reducing Red Tape for Small Businesses

Many small businesses are challenged by changing business requirements and interacting with the government services available to support them. Since 2011, the government has already taken significant steps to save businesses a total of $152 million by eliminating regulatory duplication, lessening compliance burdens and shortening response times. In addition, Ontario has passed the Cutting Unnecessary Red Tape Act, 2017. Ontario will implement the following additional initiatives to help businesses access programs and achieve regulatory compliance.

Improving Inspections for Businesses with Good Compliance Records

Compliant businesses often experience the same level of inspections as those that are non-compliant. The Province is improving the data analytics it uses to target government inspection programs, and reduce inspections for consistently compliant businesses. This means businesses will save on the costs to prepare for inspections, and inspections that do occur will be more efficient, saving time for businesses as well.

Making Inspections More Efficient for Bars and Restaurants

The Province is developing a Coordinated Inspection Pilot for the restaurants and bars sector. Under this approach, regulators will share data and information on critical compliance issues, as well as compliance best practices. This will help focus inspections on non-compliant businesses, while reducing inspections for compliant businesses in the sector. Sharing best practices will help businesses make changes to reduce their compliance costs and allow for quicker, more effective inspections.

Providing More Flexibility to Meet Government Requirements

Prescriptive regulations can deter innovation by businesses and hinder their focus on operations. The Province will explore new provisions that allow businesses to comply with regulatory requirements if they have an alternate approach that meets or exceeds the requirements.

Modernizing Apprenticeships for Small Businesses

The Province recognizes the challenges that many small businesses face in attracting and retaining talent, and is proposing targeted, significant steps in order to support their workforce investments by:

  • Adding five service-sector trades to the eligibility list for the new Graduated Apprenticeship Grant for Employers: Hairstylist, Cook, Horticultural Technician, Baker/Patissier, and Appliance Service Technician; and
  • Supporting multiple employers to pool together and form consortia to hire, register and train their apprentices for skilled trades.

For more information on the Graduated Apprenticeship Grant for Employers, please see the Investing in People’s Talents and Skills section later in this chapter.

Building on Existing Initiatives Supporting Small Business

Ontario’s new investments and the recent measures outlined previously build on a number of existing initiatives that support small business growth and lower their costs. Many business support programs — including elements of the more than $650 million in investments in the Business Growth Initiative, which was introduced in the 2016 Ontario Budget and enhanced in the 2017 Ontario Budget — focus on helping small businesses grow. The Province also recently released its Global Trade Strategy with programs that will help Ontario businesses increase and diversify exports.

TABLE 2.1 Examples of Recent Initiatives Supporting Ontario Small Businesses

Business Support Trade Enhancement
  • ScaleUP Ventures Fund
  • Small Business Innovation Challenge
  • Scale-Up Voucher Program
  • Cleantech Equity Fund
  • Ontario’s Global Trade Strategy, Seizing Global Opportunities
  • Magnet Export Business Portal
  • Accelerate to International Markets Program

Supporting Ontario’s Dynamic and Competitive Business Environment

Ontario offers a dynamic and competitive environment in which businesses can thrive. Despite this, opportunities to scale up are limited by the ability to access talent, markets and risk capital. Businesses are also confronting rapid technological changes that can affect their success and they want a more efficient regulatory environment in which to do business.

The Business Growth Initiative is the government’s five-year strategy to invest more than $650 million to address these challenges and further improve Ontario’s global competitiveness, focusing on three priority areas:

  • Scaling up Ontario firms;
  • Creating a more innovative economy; and
  • Lowering the cost of business by cutting red tape.

Early Successes of Scale-Ups in Ontario

To help companies scale into globally competitive firms, Ontario created the Scale‑Up Voucher Program, the Small Business Innovation Challenge, and access to capital programs like the Investment Accelerator Fund. These programs are helping Ontario’s scale-ups succeed.

  • BioConnect has developed leading biometric technology enabling businesses to securely and conveniently control access to their data systems that have traditionally been secured through usernames and passwords. Ontario’s Scale-Up Voucher Program will help expand BioConnect’s sales presence in foreign markets.
  • IDENTOS is a high-tech security and mobile encryption firm. Participating in the Small Business Innovation Challenge has enabled IDENTOS to further develop its existing products and advance its hiring plan, effectively allowing the company to double in size.
  • Lending Loop, a company receiving funding from the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund, offers an online peer-to-peer platform that allows ordinary Canadians to control how they invest. By using technology to efficiently connect many lenders and borrowers, this Ontario firm focuses on affordable loans to small businesses, targeting a community that often struggles to finance growth projects.

Promoting Innovation through Transformational Technologies

Ontario is home to a highly educated workforce and world-class research institutions, which have contributed to many cutting-edge technologies being invented here. To maintain Ontario’s position as a technology and innovation leader, the Province is investing in the development of transformational technologies. These investments will better position Ontario businesses to compete on the global stage and remain at the forefront of their respective industries, creating jobs and economic prosperity across the province.

Ontario’s Investments in Artificial Intelligence and the Vector Institute

In the 2017 Budget, the Province announced an investment of $50 million in the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence to ensure Ontario businesses stay in the vanguard of this dynamic technology. Through the development of artificial intelligence (AI), Ontario research labs and companies are creating opportunities to improve lives through the delivery of health care, education and transportation. Since launching, the Institute has attracted some of the brightest minds in AI and is encouraging Ontario-trained scientists to remain in the province. Additionally, the Institute has attracted more than $85 million in investments from over 30 companies.

Graduating More Highly Skilled Students for Innovative Companies

With one of the world’s most talented, diverse workforces, Ontario is widely considered a strong contender for Amazon’s second global headquarters. In order to attract Amazon and keep building an environment where the “next Amazon” can be created, the government plans to further invest in its education system to create a competitive and highly skilled talent pool for all companies looking to grow. These plans include boosting the number of graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by 25 per cent. In addition, the province is investing $30 million in the Vector Institute to graduate 1,000 applied masters students in artificial-intelligence-related fields per year. All this will be done within five years. The Province is proceeding with this plan regardless of where Amazon chooses to grow, as these are steps that are helping businesses create the good jobs of tomorrow, right here in Ontario.

Transforming Health Care through Artificial Intelligence

Ontario will invest up to $10 million to create a Centre of Excellence in Health Care Artificial Intelligence in Niagara. With this investment, the Province will showcase AI technology, benefiting regional economic activity in Niagara. As part of this initiative, this Centre of Excellence will engage partners, including the Vector Institute, other area hospitals and health technology companies on using AI to improve health outcomes for patients.

Advancing Ontario’s Investment into Connected and Autonomous Vehicles

Technological advances in the field of connected and autonomous vehicles (C/AV) has the potential to improve road safety and fuel efficiency, minimize driver distraction, and reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. Ontario is investing $80 million over five years to launch the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN), which will bring together industry and academia to capitalize on the economic opportunities of C/AV, while developing the emerging technology and infrastructure. Ontario’s investment will support industry-led C/AV R&D projects and create sites to develop, test and validate this new technology as well as attract and grow talent.

The AVIN, delivered in partnership with the Ontario Centres of Excellence, includes a:

  • Demonstration Zone in Stratford where researchers can hone and test C/AV technology in a wide range of everyday, real-life traffic scenarios;
  • Research and Development Partnership Fund, to foster collaboration among automakers, technology leaders, and Ontario-based small and medium-sized enterprises to develop and commercialize C/AV technologies. Collaborations may also involve post-secondary institutions and municipalities;
  • Talent Development Program, to support internships and fellowships for students and recent graduates with Ontario companies advancing C/AV technologies; and
  • Central Hub, a new online destination and specialized team to act as a focal point to conduct research, share information, build connections and raise awareness among industry, research institutions and other interested C/AV stakeholders.

Creating Innovative Neighbourhoods — Quayside, Toronto

Waterfront Toronto is a tri-government organization, accountable to the governments of Ontario, Canada and the City of Toronto. In October 2017, Waterfront Toronto announced that it has selected Sidewalk Labs, a division of Alphabet Inc., as an innovation and funding partner for the development of Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront. The company will invest over $60 million throughout the initial phase of the project to undertake consultations and planning, and to create a blueprint for developing the new Quayside neighbourhood and potentially the entire eastern waterfront. Through this effort, innovations in urban planning and digital technology will be used to benefit people, companies, startups, researchers and community organizations.

Reducing Administrative Costs in the WSIB System

Since 2016, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has been taking measures to reduce its costs and manage premiums. In addition, the government asked the WSIB to negotiate changes to its pension plan to improve its sustainability and affordability. In response, the WSIB and the Ontario Compensation Employees Union (OCEU) have agreed to convert the pension plan to a jointly sponsored pension plan (JSPP). This change would mean equal sharing of costs and risks between the employer and employees, and joint governance, including decision-making on benefit changes, while protecting those benefits already earned.

The conversion of the pension plan to a JSPP will require the consent of all types of members entitled to benefits under the plan, and the approval of the Superintendent of Financial Services. If the conversion takes place and a request is made by the newly established plan, the government intends to name it in a regulation as exempt from solvency funding requirements, consistent with other broader public-sector solvency-exempt JSPPs. Through this change, the WSIB could potentially save an estimated $340 million over 25 years, starting in 2019.

Supporting Investments that Create Jobs

Jobs and Prosperity Fund

To attract and support business investment in Ontario, the Province launched the Jobs and Prosperity Fund, a 10-year $2.7 billion fund. Since 2015, the fund has supported businesses in creating and retaining 25,000 jobs, leveraging business investments of $3.3 billion.

TABLE 2.2 Examples of Recent Strategic Investments through the Jobs and Prosperity Fund

Company Investment Job Impact Sector
Cyclone Manufacturing Inc.
(Mississauga)
Up to $5.2 million 686 jobs created and retained Aerospace manufacturing
Conestoga Meat Packers Ltd.
(Breslau)
Up to $5.3 million 170 jobs created and retained Food processing
Legend 3D, Inc.
(Toronto)
Up to $3.1 million 551 jobs created and retained Film and television
Polycorp Ltd.
(Elora)
Up to $2.5 million 172 jobs created and retained Engineered rubber product manufacturing
Sofina Foods Inc.
(Mitchell/Dublin)
Up to $5.3 million 160 jobs created and retained Food processing

Regional Economic Development

While Ontario’s economy continues to expand, some regions are not feeling the full benefits of growth. Ontario’s regional economic development funds help support investment and job creation across the province, allowing businesses to hire new employees, increase innovation and make their operations more efficient.

TABLE 2.3 Examples of Recent Regional Development Investments

Company Investment Job Impact Region
Avalon Advanced Materials Inc. $500,000 14 jobs created and retained Supporting mining innovation in Kenora through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation.
Crinan Cliff Farms $200,000 4 direct jobs and 60 indirect jobs created and retained Supporting Indigenous agriculture development in Dutton through the Indigenous Economic Development Fund.
Kawartha Dairy Limited $311,200 125 jobs created and retained Supporting a new state-of-the-art refrigeration facility in Bobcaygeon through the Eastern Ontario Development Fund.
KSR International Co. $676,600 647 jobs created and retained Supporting an expansion in production capabilities in the auto parts sector in Ridgetown through the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund.

Embracing Financial Technology (FinTech)

Ontario’s financial services and the information and communications technology (ICT) sectors are thriving, establishing Ontario as a global FinTech hub. This contributes to greater economic growth and increased job creation across several sectors in the province.

FinTech companies may face difficulties navigating regulatory requirements and accessing important resources which could prove to be significant impediments to developing or growing their businesses. The government is developing a strategy to position Ontario as a leader in FinTech.

This new strategy intends to help FinTech companies address these challenges, ensuring that entrepreneurs looking to start and grow FinTech businesses in Ontario have the support needed to successfully launch their products or services in a way that fully complies with Ontario’s financial services regulations, which have a high standard of consumer protection.

As a first phase of the FinTech strategy, the Ontario government is moving forward with two key initiatives:

  • The Regulatory Super Sandbox will help FinTech businesses test innovative products, services, business models and delivery mechanisms in the real market with real consumers on a time-limited and small-scale basis, while working with multiple regulators; and
  • The Ontario FinTech Accelerator Office will strive to work with both provincial and federal partners to help firms navigate multiple regulatory frameworks and provide support on matters of business formation and growth.

Chart 2.1 Ontario FinTech Accelerator Office

Chart 2.1  Ontario FinTech Accelerator Office
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Investing in People’s Talents and Skills

As the global economy becomes more competitive and technology-driven, Ontario continues to invest in its most valuable resource — its people. Through the Highly Skilled Workforce Strategy, the Province is making far-reaching changes to help the people of Ontario develop the skills they need to participate and thrive in the economy of today and tomorrow.

Implementing the Highly Skilled Workforce Strategy

Ontario is implementing an integrated Highly Skilled Workforce Strategy to bridge education, training and skills development with the demands of an evolving economy.

Boosting On-the-Job Learning Opportunities

Ontario’s world-class education system provides students with the skills and training needed to be successful. However, graduates often face challenges landing their first job due to a lack of work-related experience. Recent studies have highlighted how experiential learning can contribute to career readiness.1 The Province is working to close the career readiness gap by connecting students and recent graduates to the workforce through the Career Kick-Start Strategy. The Province is moving forward on key parts of this strategy, including:

  • Renewing support for over 3,000 internships for postsecondary students through Mitacs Accelerate program and 420 internships and fellowships delivered by the Ontario Centres of Excellence TalentEdge program;
  • Expanding the Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program to introduce 17,000 more students, over the next three years, to career options while obtaining their high school diploma; and
  • Launching the Career Ready Fund to help postsecondary institutions and employers create more experiential learning opportunities for students and recent graduates.

Promoting Lifelong Learning and Skills Training

As the economy and labour market become more technology- and knowledge-based, new skills are required. For example, between 13 and 22 per cent of working-age adults in Ontario have difficulty with common life skills such as working with a computer, reading instructions or understanding calculations.2

The Province is making a historic investment in adult education and essential skills through its Lifelong Learning and Skills Plan. Starting this year and over the next three years, Ontario will provide 80,000 more adult learners with the opportunity to develop essential literacy, math and digital skills. This new investment will help more people get the training and skills they need to pursue their employment and educational goals in a changing economy.

Beginning this fall, more adult learners will also be able to access dual credit programs, providing them with exposure to the college environment, while allowing them to get a head start on learning and training for their future careers. Adult learners will now have the opportunity to complete college courses in a range of disciplines, including welding, art and design, entrepreneurship, and health and wellness, with credits counting towards their Ontario Secondary School Diploma.

Making Postsecondary Education More Accessible

The government is enhancing the postsecondary education and training system to make it more accessible and better able to prepare students to succeed in meeting the demands of a changing economy. It is important that everyone who wishes to pursue higher learning is able to do so in a way that is affordable. For this reason, Ontario is reducing financial barriers for students from low- and middle-income families so that they can pursue postsecondary education.

Rolling Out a New Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP)

Enhancing opportunities for postsecondary education will help students improve their employment prospects in a knowledge-based economy. This school year, 210,000 college and university students will receive free tuition.

As of September 2017, mature students can access the same full suite of OSAP supports as younger students. Students with children are eligible to receive more OSAP funding for educational and living costs, making it easier for people to balance raising children with attending college or university.

To further improve student assistance, the government will work with universities and colleges to better streamline student aid by implementing net tuition billing, which means a student will be billed only what they actually owe once OSAP grants and loans and institutional aid are taken into account.

Providing Free Online Textbooks

The annual cost of textbooks for undergraduate students at Ontario postsecondary institutions ranges from $750 to $1,500. Ontario is helping students with their college and university education costs by providing free online textbooks.

Ontario is investing $1 million in the Ontario Open Textbooks Initiative, a partnership with eCampusOntario that will develop and provide free and low-cost digital textbooks for students. The initiative focuses on content in areas that will result in the most significant impact and cost savings for students, including high-enrolment first-year courses.

Recognizing Indigenous Institutes

The government intends to introduce legislation to recognize a new pathway for Indigenous students to earn a diploma, certificate or degree. The proposed legislation recognizes that Indigenous Institutes play a unique role in Ontario’s postsecondary education system by providing accessible education and training to Indigenous students in culturally responsive learning environments. The proposed legislation also supports Indigenous Institutes as a complementary pillar to Ontario’s postsecondary education system — alongside the Province’s 45 publicly funded colleges and universities.

Recognizing Indigenous Institutes builds on the Province’s historic $56 million investment in Indigenous learners, announced in the 2017 Budget, as an important part of a thriving postsecondary system and a key step towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Ontario.

Creating a New French-Language University

Learners across Ontario can currently study in French from early years through postsecondary education; however, more postsecondary education options are needed. The government is proposing to introduce legislation that would create a new French-language university to provide French learners more opportunities to pursue postsecondary studies in French.

Modernizing Apprenticeship

This year, the Province undertook an engagement process with stakeholders and partners to examine ways to modernize Ontario’s apprenticeship system. The modernization has three key goals: improving completion rates of apprentices; creating clearer pathways for apprenticeship; and increasing opportunities for apprentices in underrepresented groups, including women, Indigenous peoples, francophones, people with disabilities, newcomers and visible minorities.

Ontario is developing a new apprenticeship strategy to ensure that seamless pathways and the right supports are offered for apprentices, employers and training delivery agents. These supports will ensure that both workers and  employers have the skills and talent needed to meet future labour market demand, are prepared to make use of new and emerging technologies, and have the competencies required for success on the job.

Implementing a Graduated Apprenticeship Grant for Employers

Based on the results of the recent engagement with stakeholders, the government is proposing to transform the existing Apprenticeship Training Tax Credit (ATTC) into a new Graduated Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (GAGE).

The GAGE is designed to encourage employers to ensure apprentices complete their training programs by providing the following employer grants:

  • $2,500 upon the apprentice’s completion of level one and again at level two;
  • $3,500 upon the apprentice’s completion of level three and again at level four; and
  • $4,700 upon the apprentice’s attainment of certification (either through a certificate of apprenticeship or certificate of qualification if applicable).

To encourage increased apprenticeship opportunities for underrepresented groups such as women, Indigenous peoples, francophones, people with disabilities, newcomers and visible minorities, the GAGE would provide a $500 bonus to each grant level described above when the apprentice belongs to an underrepresented group.

The GAGE would be available to all 125 trades that are currently eligible for the existing ATTC, plus an additional five Red Seal service sector trades:

  • Hairstylist;
  • Cook;
  • Horticultural/Landscape Technician;
  • Baker/Patissier; and
  • Appliance Service Technician.

Employers with eligible apprentices (as described above) who have registered their apprenticeship program with the Ontario College of Trades after November 14, 2017 would be eligible for the new GAGE support.

See Chapter V, Section A: Business Taxation for more details of the proposed ATTC changes.

Breaking Down Employment Barriers for People with Disabilities

Less than half of the people with disabilities in Ontario are employed, compared to over 70 per cent of people not living with disabilities. That is why the government launched Access Talent: Ontario’s Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities to help increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities and connect businesses to talent.

Working with disability organizations, service providers, the private sector and broader public-sector partners, the government has made progress implementing the strategy by:

  • Supporting the Ontario Disability Employment Network by working with the Canadian National Exhibition to hire people with disabilities to fill up to one in five of its summer jobs;
  • Providing funding to the University of Waterloo to create tools and resources to help ensure that students with disabilities have a more inclusive co-op experience; and
  • Launching the Discover Ability Network in September 2017, connecting people with disabilities seeking employment directly with Ontario businesses through an online portal.

Helping New Canadians Find Employment

Over the past decade, more than one million newcomers have come to Ontario. Ontario recognizes that it is critical to ensure everyone is able to participate fully in today’s economy.

That is why Ontario is investing over $110 million in newcomer and refugee supports, including language training, settlement and employment programs, and is working with the federal government to facilitate greater access to talent for businesses.

Since the 2017 Budget, Ontario has initiated changes to the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program to make it easier and faster for employers to recruit and retain highly skilled immigrants.

Supporting Vulnerable Newcomers

Currently, over 65 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced from their homes.3 In recent years, communities across the province welcomed refugees at an unprecedented level, with about 20,000 resettled refugees from across the world settling in Ontario last year. The Province is investing more than $25 million over two years to enhance services in Ontario’s communities for refugees and vulnerable newcomers.

Chart 2.2 Ontario’s Response to the Global Refugee Crisis

Chart 2.2 Ontario's Response to the Global Refugee Crisis
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Championing Women’s Empowerment

Empowering women to be active participants in the economy is critical to achieving full equality. Ontario is taking steps to support women’s increased workforce participation and economic empowerment by:

  • Working to close the gender wage gap through the Gender Wage Gap strategy that is being informed by a working group focused on key issues like shared parental leave and a review of pay equity;
  • Encouraging gender diversity on boards through its Women in Corporate Leadership initiative and gender diversity targets for both government appointees and private-sector boards of directors to encourage greater representation of women in public and private sector leadership roles;
  • Increasing fairness for women by introducing leave of absence provisions to provide women with up to 17 weeks’ leave without the fear of losing their jobs when they or their children have experienced or are threatened with domestic or sexual violence (for more information on government initiatives related to women’s safety and security, see Chapter I: Building Fairness for Ontario Families);
  • Improving access to affordable high-quality child care, an essential part of increasing women’s labour force participation and economic empowerment; and
  • Helping more than 1,700 low-income women gain entrepreneurship and financial literacy training through the government’s micro-lending program.

The government is also developing a broader Women’s Economic Empowerment Strategy, having engaged with people across Ontario focusing on four key areas: empowering youth, promoting economic opportunities, encouraging leadership and shifting social attitudes.

Expanding International Trade

Nearly one in five Canadian jobs is directly linked to exports.4 Trade leads to new opportunities and revenue for businesses in global markets. Thousands of companies across the province are exporting to global markets successfully, enabling them to create high-quality jobs in the province.

Global Trade Strategy

On October 19, the Province announced Ontario’s Global Trade Strategy, Seizing Global Opportunities, which sets out the government’s key priority areas to increase international trade performance over the next five years. Building on the 2017 Budget commitment, this new strategy will continue to grow and diversify the province’s international trade, benefiting further from an expanding global economy.
The strategy will stimulate economic growth and create jobs by focusing on the following areas:

  • Leveraging Ontario’s international trade and investment assets and diversifying trade markets, products and services. The strategy will support Ontario’s small and medium-sized enterprises in exporting, and help them reach new markets by leading trade missions.
  • Leading through coordinating, convening and connecting with new technologies, such as the Magnet Export Business Portal. This new web portal will make it easier for businesses to navigate government services through one-window access to information and programs.
  • Reinforcing Ontario’s mandate to work with the federal government to ensure that free trade agreements and trade policies reflect and protect the interests of Ontario’s businesses and workers.
  • Driving better intelligence for stronger trade outcomes using improved data analytics to inform decision-making on key trade issues.
  • Conducting in‑depth regional and sector analyses and applying in-market strategies to ensure Ontario capitalizes on its economic strengths and global opportunities.
  • Building stronger networks and infrastructure by capitalizing on technologies and innovation to increase trade diversification.
  • Strengthening global relations to increase Ontario’s international presence and driving economic benefits by leveraging Ontario’s global talent networks.

To continue promoting Ontario as a destination for investment and trade, and to build new global business opportunities, the government delivers trade missions to create and strengthen partnerships and promote Ontario as a key centre for investment and innovation. This fall, the Premier will lead a trade mission to China and Vietnam with Ontario businesses to showcase their products and services on the international stage and open doors to new sales and partnership opportunities.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Renegotiation

On average, $1 billion in goods are traded between Ontario and the United States every day. In 2016, Ontario’s economy accounted for more than half of goods traded between Canada and the United States and more than two-thirds of goods traded between Canada and Mexico. In 2016, trilateral trade among Canada, the United States and Mexico reached $1.6 trillion.

Ontario’s number one trade priority is creating jobs and growing the economy to ensure the continued prosperity of the province. The government will continue to work collaboratively with the federal government, other provinces, local business and allies in the United States to advance Ontario’s economic interests and the rights of workers. The Province will continue to protect its interests in the face of uncertainty. See Chapter IV: Working with Our Partners for more details.

Chart 2.3 Ontario Is a Key Export Market for the United States

Chart 2.3 Ontario Is a Key Export Market for the United States
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Promoting Trade with States and Provinces

Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region

Ontario is also committed to providing leadership in strengthening trade subnationally to benefit Ontario workers and businesses. The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region is an important strategic subnational region for the province. The significant movement of goods and services makes the region a powerful cluster that enjoys a competitive advantage globally. Ontario’s trade in goods with partners in this region was worth $200 billion in 2015.5 Ontario will continue to promote collaboration with its Great Lakes partners to support good jobs and growth and to help the region become a world-class hub, benefiting from its highly integrated supply chains.

On October 20, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder co‑hosted the 2017 Leadership Summit of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers. Coming out of the summit, the Governors and Premiers announced a series of actions to grow the region’s economy, including:

  • Creating an ambitious initiative to make the region a worldwide centre for the development and deployment of connected and autonomous transportation, including ships; and
  • Opening export promotion offices in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Korea, as well as initiating three joint missions for regional business leaders.

Building Tomorrow’s Infrastructure Today

Public infrastructure investments such as roads, bridges, public transit, hospitals and schools are essential to providing the people and businesses of Ontario with mobility and convenient access to the services they need. The Province is investing about $190 billion in public infrastructure over 13 years starting in 2014–15, for priority projects. These investments are expected to support 125,000 jobs, on average, each year during the construction phase of the government’s infrastructure plan.

This fall, Ontario will release a long-term infrastructure plan that lays out the Province’s infrastructure vision for the next decade, while demonstrating how strategic capital investments can have a positive impact on productivity, growth and service delivery across Ontario.

See Chapter I: Building Fairness for Ontario Families for more details on investments in health and education infrastructure.

Benefits of Infrastructure Investments

Public infrastructure investments drive economic growth. In the medium term, the economy and society will benefit from new schools and hospitals, as well as improved roads and public transit, which move goods to market faster and shorten commute times. In the longer term, these investments will support a more productive economy, stimulating competitiveness and attracting the business investment and talent needed for economic prosperity. A study by the Centre for Spatial Economics finds that, over the long term, real GDP in Ontario rises up to $6 on average per dollar of public infrastructure spending.

Trillium Trust

The government will allocate up to $400 million this year from the Trillium Trust to support investments in public transit, transportation and other priority infrastructure projects, based on planned expenditures in the 2017 Budget. This builds on last year’s allocation of $262 million to support key investments across the province, such as GO Regional Express Rail, Hurontario Light Rail Transit, the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund and the Small Communities Fund.

TABLE 2.4: 2016–17 Infrastructure Investments Supported by the Trillium Trust

  Project 2016–17 Trillium Trust Allocation
trainRail Projects GO Regional Express Rail $115 million
Hurontario Light Rail Transit $8 million
Infrastructure Projects Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund $83 million
Small Communities Fund $21 million
Other Projects Other Priority Projects $35 million

Improving Transportation Options in Ontario

The Province is managing congestion, connecting communities and providing people with more travel options by investing in regional and municipal public transit and transportation across Ontario. These investments help communities meet local infrastructure needs, support economic development and expand commuter choice across the province.

Expanding Transit through GO Regional Express Rail

The Province is moving forward with the implementation of GO Regional Express Rail (RER) in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, one of the largest transit infrastructure investments in North America.

GO RER is a plan to provide faster and more frequent service on the GO rail network, with electrification on core segments. Weekly trips across the network will grow from about 1,500 to nearly 6,000 by 2024–25. Service will be provided at up to 15-minute frequencies in both directions during weekdays and evenings, and on weekends.

Early works in support of GO RER and service improvements are underway on various GO corridors, as Ontario transforms GO from a commuter transit system to a regional rapid transit system. For example, Ontario is making it easier and more convenient for commuters and families to take public transit in Durham Region with the opening of a new passenger building at the Oshawa GO Station.

Making Progress across the Province

Major transit investments and highway infrastructure projects are underway to improve mobility and connectivity across the province.

Northern Ontario:
  • Supporting First Nations in the Ring of Fire region to plan and construct all‑season roads that connect their communities to the provincial highway network. This is part of the government’s commitment to invest in Ring of Fire infrastructure to create jobs and improve quality of life for people in the north.
  • Investing in the Northern Highway Program. Four-laning work continues on stretches of Highways 11/17 and 69.
Eastern Ontario:
  • Investing in the Rideau Canal Crossing, a multi-use pedestrian and cyclist bridge in Ottawa. Construction started this fall.
  • Investing in the Third Crossing, a new bridge over the Cataraqui River in Kingston, to provide an alternate route for commuters and future opportunities for pedestrians and cyclists with a multi-use trail.
  • Supporting Stages 1 and 2 of the Ottawa Light Rail Transit (LRT) project, including a spur from the Trillium Line to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport and an extension of the Confederation Line to Trim Road in Orléans.
Central Ontario:
  • Ongoing network improvements to support implementation of GO RER, such as the Highway 401 Rail Tunnel project on the Kitchener corridor.
  • Construction is progressing on regional rapid transit projects, including the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, Mississauga Transitway, York Viva Bus Rapid Transit, and Waterloo Rapid Transit projects.
  • Opening of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension, scheduled for December 2017, will provide subway service across regional boundaries in the province for the first time and support student travel to York University.
  • Starting on the next phase of design work to upgrade the Hanlon Expressway in Guelph to improve commute times.
  • Continuing with construction of Phase 2 of Highway 407 East and on stretches of Highways 427 and 410.
  • Opening a new pedestrian bridge to improve access for commuters using the Ajax GO Station.
Southwestern Ontario:
  • Improvements along 12.4 kilometres of Highway 6 in the Township of Southgate and the Municipality of West Grey are now complete and will keep traffic moving.
  • Investing in a new 3.5 kilometre off-road cycling and walking path in Tecumseh, connecting to existing major trails and making it easier to get around.

Improving Access to Public Spaces: Ontario’s Community Hubs

Community hubs provide a central access point for a range of health and social services, along with cultural, recreational and green spaces. A community hub can include a school, a neighbourhood centre, an early learning centre, a library or a community health centre.

Being able to access multiple services under one roof can make everyday life easier for Ontario families. Through the Community Hubs Initiative, communities have spoken loudly and clearly about the importance of protecting public assets where there is demonstrated public need. The Province is intending to move forward with developing a Social Purpose Real Estate Strategy that embeds community and social needs into government decision-making on surplus properties and infrastructure planning.

Improving Energy Supports for Rural Communities

The government recognizes that for some rural communities growth has not been as strong as in other areas across the province. The government is improving access to additional energy choices and investing $100 million to expand access to natural gas to underserved areas of the province, including rural and northern Ontario and Indigenous communities.

The Fair Hydro Act, 2017 reduced electricity bills for eligible residential consumers, small businesses and farms. See Chapter I: Building Fairness for Ontario Families. People earning lower 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.

Expanding Broadband Access across the Province

To fully participate and compete in the digital economy, the people of Ontario need reliable, fast and affordable broadband Internet connectivity. The expansion of broadband will help businesses compete and allow people to access information from the comfort of their homes. Better and faster access to the Internet will provide social and economic benefit.

Since 2007, the Province has committed close to $310 million in broadband infrastructure investments in communities across Ontario. This means more communities will be able to utilize high-speed Internet connectivity.

TABLE 2.5: Broadband Infrastructure Investments across Ontario

Region Description
Southern Ontario Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology network* — Delivering affordable fibre optic coverage to over 300 communities.
Rural Connections Broadband Program
— Increased broadband infrastructure in rural southern Ontario.
Northern Ontario Matawa First Nations* An investment of up to $30 million to improve access to distance education, skills training and new business opportunities for five Matawa-member communities.
Broadband Expansion in Northwestern Ontario
— Providing more communities in the north with access to broadband Internet service through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund.
Northwestern Ontario Broadband Expansion Initiative* — An investment that brought a fibre optic network to Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities.
Eastern Ontario Eastern Ontario Broadband Network* — Delivering high-speed, high-capacity Internet service to an estimated 95 per cent of the residents and businesses in Eastern Ontario.
* In addition, the Government of Canada has also committed funding to these Broadband Infrastructure projects.

Ontario has also committed an additional $180 million in programs to expand broadband services.

Advancing a Low-Carbon Economy

Ontario communities, homes and businesses are already facing the consequences of extreme weather events, including severe storms, flooding and heat waves. Ontario is determined to address such challenges and play a role in the global efforts to minimize risks from a changing climate. Tackling climate change requires new solutions, which will lead to new types of jobs in low-carbon sectors. To benefit from such opportunities, Ontario’s transition to a competitive and low‑carbon economy is well underway. This shift is promoting economic growth and job creation by protecting the environment against further climate change.

Designing Ontario’s Carbon Market Going Forward

Certainty allows businesses to plan for long-term investments and protect jobs. In September 2017, Ontario, California and Quebec announced the linking of their carbon markets. Also in September, the Province moved forward with an important aspect of the future design of its carbon market, beginning with proposing a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions cap for the period between 2021 and 2030. This cap would be set to decline at a constant annual rate in order to achieve Ontario’s 2030 emissions reduction target. It is expected that this rate of decline will be more gradual between 2021 and 2030 than during the current compliance period.

Chart 2.4 Ontario Greenhouse Gas Emmissions and Targets

Chart 2.4 Ontario Greenhouse Gas Emmissions and Targets
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Accessible description of Chart 2.4

Reducing Compliance Costs

Independent economic analysis has shown that a linked cap-and-trade market is the most cost-effective way to achieve Ontario’s GHG reduction objectives.

TABLE 2.6: Carbon Pricing Scenarios — Economic Impacts of Achieving Ontario’s 2020 Emissions Reduction Target

  Ontario’s Approach Carbon Tax
Household Energy Impact
($/month, 2016 dollars)
$13 $50
Carbon Price
($/tonne, 2016 dollars)
$18 $72
Net GHG Reduction 18.42 million tonnes 12.7 million tonnes
Note: The report “Overview of Macroeconomic and Household Impacts of Ontario’s Cap and Trade Program” by EnviroEconomics, Navius Research, and Dillon Consulting found that Ontario’s approach to emissions capping is the most cost-effective method of reducing emissions.

To improve market stability and access to additional lower cost emissions reduction opportunities, the Province has:

  • Signed an agreement with Quebec and California to form the largest North American carbon market, enabling businesses to purchase lower cost emission allowances. The three jurisdictions are expected to hold their first joint auction in early 2018.
  • Started working with Indigenous communities, stakeholders and partners in developing carbon offsets. The availability of carbon offsets jointly designed with Quebec will provide emitters with additional flexibility in meeting their compliance obligations.

Ontario’s carbon market program meets the national carbon pricing benchmark, since it achieves greater GHG reductions at lower cost for the province’s households and businesses.

Investing in a Low-Carbon Economy

Ontario’s carbon market program has had a successful start with strong interest from registered participants. The first three Ontario auctions this year have generated over $1.5 billion in proceeds, which is being invested responsibly and transparently in new programs as guided by the Province’s five-year Climate Change Action Plan.

Carbon Market Proceeds are Helping Families and Businesses

The proceeds from the auctions are being invested into programs that will help families, businesses and communities reduce GHG emissions and save money. In addition to those announced in the 2017 Budget, other initiatives to support families and businesses include:

  • Launching the Green Ontario Fund, which has started delivering programs and rebates to help reduce energy costs in homes and businesses;
  • Improving the lives of low-income and vulnerable tenants with upgrades to social housing buildings such as new energy-efficient heating, improved insulation, and window replacements;
  • Procuring new electric school buses as part of a pilot designed to give students safe, clean transportation to and from school;
  • Making it easier for cyclists to commute to and from work and school with the construction of new, secure bike storage lockers at GO Transit stations and carpool lots;
  • Investing in retrofits to make schools more energy efficient;
  • Helping unions, colleges and universities acquire new equipment and increase their capacity to train current and future workers in low-carbon building skills;
  • Supporting municipal facilities like arenas, and making energy-efficiency upgrades to drinking water or wastewater treatment plants, to achieve long-term and cost-effective pollution reductions;
  • Enabling researchers, entrepreneurs and companies to create and commercialize new, globally competitive low-carbon technologies; and
  • Providing support for the adoption of innovative low-carbon technologies and fostering leading-edge technology development targeting GHG reductions for industry emitters.

Making it easier and more convenient for homeowners and businesses to reduce their carbon footprint and save money is part of Ontario’s plan to create jobs, grow the economy and help people in their everyday lives.

Footnotes

[1] RBC, “Addressing the Catch 22: RBC Career Launch Applicants Recommendations for Improving School-to-Work Transitions,” (2017).

[2] Skills in Canada: First Results from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), Statistics Canada (2013).

[3] The UN Refugee Agency, “Figures at a Glance,” http://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html

[4] Statistics Canada and Ontario Ministry of International Trade.

[5] Ivey Business School, University of Western Ontario, Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management, “We Make Things Together: Potential Impact of Changes to NAFTA on the Great Lakes Region,” (2017).

Chart Descriptions

Chart 2.1: Ontario FinTech Accelerator Office

This chart highlights the key functions of the newly anticipated Ontario FinTech Accelerator Office, including:

  • Knowledge transfer across FinTech domain;
  • Brokerage of partnerships between established and new businesses;
  • Assistance with navigating regulatory requirements; and
  • Complement, existing government support for innovative businesses.

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Chart 2.2: Ontario’s Response to the Global Refugee Crisis

This chart chronicles the additional funding announced by the Ontario government since September 2015 to help refugees settle into communities in Ontario and enter the labour market.

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Chart 2.3: Ontario Is a Key Export Market for the United States

This graphic highlights the U.S. states for which Ontario was the number one and number two market for international merchandise exports in 2016. Ontario was the number one export market for the following 20 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin. In 2016, Ontario was the number two export market for the following states: Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nevada, Rhode Island and South Dakota.

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Chart 2.4: Ontario Greenhouse Gas and Targets

This chart shows Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2015. It also shows Ontario’s emission reduction targets for 2014, 2020 and 2030.

Ontario has set emission reduction targets of 15 per cent below the 1990 level by 2020 and 37 per cent below the 1990 level by 2030. Ontario has achieved its 2014 emission reduction target of 6 per cent below the 1990 level.

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