Thanks to the hard work of the people of Ontario, our province has emerged from the global recession stronger.
Over the past three years, Ontario’s economy has grown faster than Canada’s and those of all other G7 nations. Private-sector economists expect solid growth in Ontario to continue.
This economic growth has occurred while the Province has made significant investments to improve the lives of all Ontarians. We are undertaking the largest infrastructure investments in our history. Not only are these investments creating jobs for Ontarians, they are also improving their quality of life: better hospitals, improved schools, new roads and bridges, and expanded public transit to meet the needs of our growing population.
These investments have also been made in a responsible manner. Ontario remains the province with the lowest program spending per capita in Canada. This has been achieved by transforming our programs and services, finding efficiencies, and tackling the underground economy to ensure people pay their fair share.
Our plan is working. There are now more jobs in Ontario than ever before — more than 800,000 net new jobs since the depth of the recession — and in October, our unemployment rate was 5.9 per cent, having remained below the national average for 31 consecutive months.
Given our prudent fiscal management and robust economic growth, we are delivering a balanced budget for the first time since the onset of the global recession in 2008. A balanced budget has been achieved only eight times in the last 40 years in Ontario. The 2017 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review provides an update to the fiscal and economic plan presented in the 2017 Ontario Budget. It confirms that the government remains on track to balance the budget this fiscal year as well as in 2018–19 and 2019–20.
The question that confronts us now is: How do we apply the earned fiscal flexibility for the benefit of all Ontarians? The past few years have proven that we can embrace change by investing in our people, helping them get ahead today and preparing them for the challenges of tomorrow. Not only does that help grow our economy, but it ensures that the benefits of that growth will be shared fairly, and that opportunity will be available widely.
Yet, many people continue to feel a sense of unease about the economy. So, our government will continue to play an active role in creating fairness for Ontario families. Whether it’s ensuring everyone has access to quality health care, or to education that helps them get ahead, or the social services supports they need to be active members of our society, we will continue to remove barriers so that all Ontarians can reach their full potential.
Ontario is also committed to creating economic opportunities and providing the right conditions for businesses to succeed. Our government is proposing to lower taxes for small businesses, and is promoting international trade, assisting in job training, reducing red tape and helping our companies scale up, so that Ontario remains the best place in the world to live, work and raise a family.
Fairness for Ontario Families
Despite a strong economy, too many people are facing challenges with rising costs of living and feeling unsure about their economic future. With a balanced budget, the Ontario government is able to build greater fairness by increasing key public services that matter most.
Investing in Health Care
In Ontario, we are proud of our universal public health care system. It is an expression of our values of fairness, equality and compassion. In the 2017 Budget, our government took action by investing an additional $7 billion over three years to enhance primary care, increase access to specialists, ensure patients receive care closer to home, reduce wait times and provide more operating funding for hospitals.
People young and old, at hospitals across Ontario, are also benefiting from an additional $618 million investment — $100 million more than we announced in the 2017 Budget — to provide better and faster access to critical services and procedures. We have also added 1,200 new hospital beds to improve access to care.
There is no health without mental health. We know that mental health and addiction challenges affect nearly a third of the people in Ontario at some point in their lives, which is why we are expanding services and care for the many who need help. We are also focused on addressing mental health challenges that present in childhood and youth, to allow people to live healthy and meaningful lives in our communities.
Through a three-year, $100 million investment announced in spring 2017, our government will also ensure that everyone living with dementia in Ontario, as well as their families and caregivers, have the right supports in place to make informed decisions about their care, and continue to be treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve.
We are also continuing to expand Ontario’s interprofessional primary health care teams with an investment of $248.4 million over three years to benefit the growing number of people with complex health needs through faster access to the right care.
The government also continues to make targeted health investments to respond to the unique needs of our northern, French-speaking and Indigenous communities.
We are addressing the needs of our seniors and their families by providing more investments in home and community care this year, so people are able to access better health care, faster and closer to home.
Supporting Our Seniors
As in many jurisdictions around the world, Ontario’s population is aging. The number of the province’s seniors is expected to grow from more than two million today to 4.5 million by 2040. In the 2017 Budget, the government introduced a suite of new initiatives to assist seniors and their families, including investing to promote health and active aging in communities throughout the province, lowering public transit costs, and increasing funding in long-term care.
This fall, our government introduced Aging with Confidence: Ontario’s Action Plan for Seniors, a strategy that will support seniors so they can live independent, healthy, active, safe and socially connected lives. The plan includes creating 5,000 more long-term care beds by 2022, as a first step towards creating 30,000 beds over the next decade to keep pace with the growing and changing needs of the aging population. We will also increase the provincial average to four hours of direct care per long-term care resident per day, once fully phased in, and are expanding compassionate end-of-life care for 2,000 more families.
Everyone should have access to care to be healthy and to thrive. Starting January 2018, all children and youth aged 24 and under will receive free prescription medication through OHIP+, one of the most significant expansions of medicare in Ontario in a generation. We believe that parents should never be in a position where they need to choose between paying for their children’s medication or other essentials.
The government is committed to making sure that families are supported right from the start with quality child care that is affordable and accessible. In our province, no family should have to worry about finding an affordable place to care for their child.
Ontario is helping 100,000 more children access affordable, high-quality licensed child care and is working to ensure universal accessibility for families all across the province — doubling current capacity. Sixty per cent of these spaces will be subsidized. In 2017–18 alone, the Province’s investments will help 24,000 additional children up to four years old access licensed child care. We want to remove barriers that hold our students back, by creating an environment in which school-age children feel safe, welcome and included. That is why we are investing in student achievement and well-being with almost $16 billion in capital grants over 10 years for new and improved schools. This September, students returned to new or renovated learning spaces in more than 50 schools across the province.
Making Postsecondary Education More Affordable
Every student should have the opportunity to pursue a college or university education without worrying about how to cover tuition and repay student debt. To that end, we have transformed our Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to give every student the opportunity to reach their full potential. This year, more than 210,000 college and university students in Ontario are receiving free tuition. We are also making sure that mature students receive more OSAP support when they are raising children.
The government is also improving student assistance by ensuring that college and university students receive a reduced up-front bill, with OSAP already factored in.
Our government wants to create more opportunities for Indigenous students. We are working with our Indigenous partners to ensure diplomas and degrees can be granted by Indigenous Institutes across the province.
We are also proposing to establish a new French-language university, the first in Ontario, for our French‑speaking learners.
Fairness for Workers
Even with a stronger economy and low unemployment, some Ontarians are struggling to get ahead. The nature of work has changed, and some are facing low pay and uncertain hours, with few benefits and protections.
Government has a responsibility to ensure fairness in the workplace and to help Ontario families get ahead. The Province plans to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by January 1, 2019. We will also ensure that part-time workers receive equal pay for equal work, and that all employees get paid sick days, minimum vacation entitlements and the right to emergency leave.
Many people are also worried about their retirement security. Two-thirds of workers do not have a workplace pension plan. Our government shares their concerns about how individuals and families will maintain their standard of living in retirement — after a lifetime of contribution to the workforce and our economy.
That is why Ontario urged the nation to address retirement security head on. Ontario’s leadership in proposing the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan was critical in driving negotiations that led to the historic agreement to enhance the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). The CPP enhancement will significantly improve the retirement security and quality of life of all workers.
Addressing Home Prices
Earlier this year, rapidly rising real estate prices meant that the cost of buying or renting a home was becoming increasingly challenging for too many people and families. Our government took action last April, introducing the Fair Housing Plan to help more Ontarians find affordable homes by encouraging increased housing supply, expanding rent control, protecting buyers and bringing stability to the real estate market. The latest numbers tell us that the plan is having its intended effect of allowing more people to buy or rent a home that they can afford.
Making Electricity More Affordable
Ontario’s electricity sector has invested heavily since 2003 to make our electricity system cleaner, more modern and reliable. These important investments resulted in rapidly rising rates for people and small businesses across Ontario. This year, our government is delivering the single largest reduction to electricity rates in Ontario’s history. As of July 1, 2017, electricity bills have been reduced by 25 per cent on average for households. Approximately 500,000 small businesses and farms also receive a benefit. Some households in rural or remote communities are seeing their electricity bills reduced by as much as 40 per cent to 50 per cent. As part of this plan, any rate increases will be held to the rate of inflation for four years. With Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan, as well as other government initiatives, we project lower monthly bills for residential consumers than previously forecast.
Creating Economic Opportunities
The government is committed to building a dynamic and competitive business environment and investing in people’s talents and skills. By creating opportunities for Ontario’s businesses and workers, we are helping ensure further economic growth and a greater quality of life for all.
Strengthening Small Business
About one-third of the jobs in Ontario are in small businesses. While small businesses are significant contributors to the success of our economy, they have experienced slower growth since the recession, relative to larger firms.
To strengthen Ontario small businesses, we are providing more than $500 million over three years in new initiatives that include proposing to lower the small business Corporate Income Tax rate, investing in youth employment, providing support for fruit and vegetable farmers, and reducing red tape. These new initiatives, combined with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s reduction of average premium rates, and other recently announced measures, will result in $1.9 billion in provincial support for Ontario small businesses over the next three years.
Modern, well-designed and maintained roads, bridges, transit, hospitals and schools improve quality of life and make Ontario more competitive in the long run.
Public infrastructure investment stimulates economic growth and attracts more business investment and talent. That is why we are making the largest infrastructure investment in our province’s history: Ontario is investing about $190 billion over 13 years, supporting 125,000 jobs per year. This year alone, we are allocating up to $400 million from the Trillium Trust to support priority projects such as Hurontario Light Rail Transit and investments across the province through the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund.
Major transit investments and highway projects are underway to improve mobility and connectivity across the province. We are managing congestion, connecting communities, and providing people with more travel and commuting options by investing in regional and municipal public transit, roads and highways. We are taking steps towards regional fare integration, saving money for commuters. We are implementing GO Regional Express Rail, one of the largest transit infrastructure projects in North America.
Ontario’s economy continues to grow despite an uncertain global environment. Over the past three years, Ontario’s economy has grown faster than Canada’s and those of all other G7 countries. With a growing economy and a balanced budget, our government is creating more opportunities for people and businesses in Ontario.
Our government’s plan is working. Ontario’s economy has continually performed well, with output and jobs rising. Exports are up, businesses are hiring more workers and household incomes are rising. In fact, Ontario’s real gross domestic product (GDP) is now 21.3 per cent above its recessionary low.
Our stronger economy has led to higher revenue, which is critical to maintaining a balanced budget. At the same time, we have managed growth in program spending, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of public services.
Independent economists project that Ontario’s economy will continue to grow over the next two years. The Ministry of Finance is forecasting growth of 2.8 per cent in Ontario’s real GDP in 2017, which is higher than the 2017 Budget assumption of 2.3 per cent.
Ontario’s balanced plan is helping to build a fairer and more inclusive province.
It allows us to make further investments to build up our infrastructure, improve our schools and hospitals, rebuild our roads, and expand our public transit systems.
It allows us to take greater action to provide everyone with more opportunities to help improve quality of life.
It allows us to continue to create the right economic environment, so that businesses can grow and people can get ahead.
It allows us to ensure fairness and opportunity for all.
Original signed by
The Honourable Charles Sousa
Minister of Finance