2014 Ontario Budget
Foreword

Building Opportunity, Securing Our Future

The 2014 Ontario Budget lays out a plan for Ontario today. For a strong Ontario, with more jobs, more opportunity and a more secure future.

Your government has a plan to create jobs and grow the economy by investing in people, building modern infrastructure, and supporting a dynamic and innovative business climate.

In 2009, global forces battered the world economy. The recession meant not only the loss of jobs around the world, but also the fundamental reshaping of the global economy. Manufacturing declined in some places, and grew in others. Financial services floundered in some places, and flourished in others. Here in Ontario, the uncertainty left in the wake of all those changes has people wondering how we will keep our economy strong. Our government has a plan.

Executing this plan will take determination, because it will not be easy. It will take vision, because it will not happen overnight. And it will take all Ontarians, working together, because government cannot do it alone. 

So what the government can do, we will do. Making the right investments in our future and sticking to our plan to balance the budget by 2017–18 means, quite simply, that there are some things we will no longer do. Instead we will choose to invest in those things that strengthen our competitive advantage, create jobs and provide vital public services for our families. Our government has made our schools and hospitals among the best in the world and we will continue to make the investments necessary to strengthen them because they are a top priority. From this moment on, our collective energy, talent and resources as a government will continue to be spent creating opportunity and jobs — building Ontario’s Decade.

As part of this plan, our government also recognizes the need for appropriate restraint. It will not go down the road of reckless across-the-board cuts to programs and services. Where expenses can be cut, we will cut them. Where services can be provided more efficiently, we will do so. We will not sacrifice important public services, like schools, hospitals, social services and measures that create jobs and help middle-class families.

Ontarians have great resolve. Tapping into the resolve and determination of Ontarians will drive our growth and prosperity.

This is a Budget by the people of Ontario for the people of Ontario.

Creating Jobs

Ontario’s Decade: A 10-Year Economic Plan

Ontario has world-class schools and hospitals, is one of the most stable and attractive places in the world for new business investment, and continues to be one of the best places to live and work.

Our economy continues to grow and create jobs but it is changing. We are entering a new economy — a new industrial age. We will seize this opportunity.

Our 10-year Economic Plan provides the tools for Ontario to become a global powerhouse.

We want to provide Ontarians with the opportunities to move into new careers and higher-paying jobs. All the actions in our 10-year Economic Plan, including a new jobs fund to anchor business investment for the new economy, investing in infrastructure for a more productive economy and focusing on new export markets are designed to create these new, high-paying jobs for Ontario families.  Together, we will prosper and build Ontario’s Decade.

Jobs Plan

There is fierce competition for global investment. To help secure these new investments, we are creating a new $2.5 billion Jobs and Prosperity Fund to compete on the world stage. The new fund will help secure business investments particularly in growing sectors, such as advanced manufacturing, agri-food and agri-products, and information and communications technology (ICT).

Lowering Energy Costs for Business

We will also introduce a new five-point business energy savings plan to give small and medium-sized businesses the tools they need to conserve energy, manage costs and save money.

We are also expanding a program to help those growing businesses that use the most energy to dramatically reduce their electricity costs on new projects. These changes mean that for new or expanding businesses, Ontario’s energy prices will be more competitive with those of our neighbours, which means Ontario companies can create new jobs and hire more people.

Investing in Transportation and Infrastructure

Ontario has grown faster than the infrastructure necessary to support it. At the same time, governments of all stripes have failed to make the necessary investments to make sure our highways are not clogged, that Ontarians have enough transit options, and that our goods and people can get where they need to go. We have done better in the past few years. We have caught up to the investments that needed to be made, and now we need to go even further. 

The time has come for a plan that will improve not only the lives of Ontarians today, but the lives of our children and grandchildren tomorrow. We are not just going to plan for what is around the corner, but also what is down the road. Not just to widen the street enough to make things a little easier now, but we will think in far-reaching new ways that will make things a lot easier today, and for years to come. It is time we shook off the timid approach of the past and embrace a bold new future for our province. One that is rational, and informed, and follows the best advice of our transit experts — not one dictated by short-term thinking, but one that actually gets goods and people moving. Period.

Dedicated Transportation Funds

Premier Kathleen Wynne has announced a bold new plan — Moving Ontario Forward — that will dedicate two new funds to fight congestion and invest in roads, bridges and transit totalling $29 billion. The first would help address congestion in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). The second fund would invest in roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure outside the GTHA. In total, the government will invest over $130 billion in infrastructure as part of Ontario’s Decade.

Unlocking Value from Government Assets

The government will look at maximizing and unlocking value from assets it currently holds, including real estate holdings as well as Crown corporations such as Ontario Power Generation, Hydro One and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. Options to unlock the full value of these assets include improving efficiency and enhancing their performance. By selling its shares in General Motors, the government can then reinvest that money in new infrastructure projects that create jobs. It will also look at selling real estate and other land.

By unlocking value from its assets and encouraging more Ontarians to save through a proposed new Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, new pools of capital would be available for Ontario-based projects such as building roads, bridges and new transit. Our strong Alternative Financing and Procurement model, run by Infrastructure Ontario, will allow for the efficient deployment of this capital in job-creating projects.

Securing Ontarians’ Retirement

To help Ontarians, especially those in the middle class, be more secure in their retirement, our government is introducing the first-of-its-kind provincial pension plan as an enhancement to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).

We must do more to ensure that people have adequate savings in their retirement years. Provincial and federal government officials and pension experts have done the analysis and tell us that Canadians, especially those in the middle class, need more support in their retirement years. And middle-class Canadians know that the CPP is not adequate for their retirement, not because of expert advice or studies, but because they plan for their retirement and wonder how they will make up the gap in savings.

The federal government refused to accept the consensus among the provinces to work on enhancing the CPP. They argue that it is not the right time for a CPP enhancement. People know that is wrong. Analysis done so far, including by Canada’s Department of Finance, shows that a CPP enhancement will have economic benefits by growing the economy and creating jobs, while providing for a more secure retirement for all working Canadians. The retirement savings gap is not a “made-in-Ontario” problem. But since the federal government will not lead, Ontario will be developing a “made-in-Ontario” solution — the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP).

The ORPP would mirror the CPP as closely as possible. It would enhance benefits for middle-income earners while keeping contribution rates low. It would be introduced in 2017 and would increase the maximum annual earnings level beyond what is currently covered by the CPP and contribution levels would be phased in over two years.

Ontario will continue to engage with other provinces and encourage them to join our plan. And we will continue pushing the federal government to do the right thing, and enhance the CPP, which is still the preferred option.

This is a balanced approach to support middle-income Ontarians in securing a brighter retirement future.

Leadership

Ontarians share strong values. We believe in being competitive as well as compassionate. Fair as well as responsible. We believe — not just in building a tolerant society, but in something bigger: we believe in building a fair society. So when we look to government, we look for leadership that embodies those values. Those values are also the values of your government.

Some believe they can deliver strong health care and education, by recklessly spending and increasing taxes that would undermine our economy. Others think they can create a strong economy, by recklessly accelerating cuts that would undermine health care and education. Ontarians know that you need balance.  Only our government will keep health care and education strong while building a stronger economy — because we know you cannot have strong public services without a strong economy, and you cannot have a strong economy without strong public services.

A government that leads ensures that everyone has the opportunity to realize their full potential and feel secure about their future. This is a key component of Ontario’s 10-year Economic Plan. Ontario is a great place to live and work, with a strong record of responding to the needs of the middle class and those most vulnerable. This government believes in holding the ladder steady and providing everyone the opportunity to climb up without leaving anyone behind.

Lowering Energy Costs

We will help middle-class Ontarians with their energy costs. Over the last 18 months, we lowered costs in the system, reducing what people would have otherwise paid by about $520 over the next five years. As part of our plan to further help with their electricity costs, we are proposing to remove the Debt Retirement Charge from residential users’ electricity bills, after December 31, 2015. This would save a typical residential user an additional $70 per year.

Increasing Support for the Most Vulnerable

The 2014 Budget includes a proposed enhancement of the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) by indexing it to inflation. Beginning in July 2014, the government will also increase the maximum annual OCB per child to $1,310, enhancing the incomes of half-a-million families. The government is also expanding low-income health benefits and developing a new program to reduce electricity bills for low-income Ontarians. Ontario will also increase social assistance benefits by an additional one per cent in 2014 and expand the Student Nutrition Program so that more children in school have access to a healthy, balanced breakfast to start their day.

Federal Underfunding of Ontarians

As the Province continues to carefully manage costs and takes action to create jobs and grow the economy, unilateral actions by the federal government put this at risk. Since 2006, the federal government has taken more than 110 unilateral actions that have hurt people and businesses across Ontario. In addition, each and every year, the share of federal revenue raised in Ontario is higher than the share of federal spending in Ontario. This results in an $11 billion gap between what Ontarians pay versus receive from the federal government. In 2014–15, Ontario will experience a year-over-year decline of $641 million in major transfers. Over the last four years, the federal government paid a total of $2.2 billion to other provinces that would have otherwise seen their transfers reduced. This year, when Ontario was the only province facing a decline, the federal government ended the practice of transfer protection payments. Ontarians call on the federal government to treat them the same way they treat residents of other provinces, protect the Province from the $641 million decline in major transfers, stop unilateral actions that impact the Province’s public services and partner with the Province to fund important infrastructure projects.

Responsible Fiscal Management

The government is on track to beat the deficit target for the fifth year in a row, resulting in the accumulated deficit now being more than $24 billion lower than it otherwise would have been, while still investing in key public services.

Since 2010, the global economy has not grown as robustly as experts projected. That means that, next year, revenues without the measures taken in this Budget would have been $3.5 billion less than projected just last year. This is a result of federal funding cuts to the Province and slow global economic growth. Notwithstanding these realities, the government is committed to balance the budget by 2017–18. The government will continue to maintain its target of reducing Ontario’s net debt-to-GDP ratio to its pre-recession level of 27 per cent.

This will require some difficult choices.

We will cut expenses where we can. We will invest where we must.

Our government rejects reckless spending cuts advocated by some. And believes inexperience by others would be risky for the economy.

Our government will instead continue to carefully review spending to determine which programs should be enhanced or reduced, while transforming public services to increase efficiencies and improve outcomes. 

Low-Cost Government

Ontario has the lowest per-capita program spending among provinces, while still providing high-quality public services. It is rooting out waste, focusing on priorities, and making sure that every dollar spent, counts.

The government has achieved all this while having the lowest total government revenue per person among all Canadian provinces.

Going forward, the government will continue to review expenses through a special Treasury Board subcommittee. We are introducing a new annual program review savings target of $250 million for 2014–15 and $500 million for each of the next two years. This target will focus on maintaining or enhancing the delivery of public services while reducing costs that are not essential to delivering services.

We are also controlling the compensation of senior executives in the broader public sector, which, through proposed legislation, would provide the government with the authority to establish compensation frameworks, including the use of sector-specific hard caps. The government has also introduced legislation to continue the salary freeze of Members of Provincial Parliament. This began in 2009 and would continue until after the budget is balanced. The government is continuing to make agencies more accountable to the ministries to further ensure that costs are controlled across government.

Making every dollar count will produce a more efficient government, which is a key component of our government’s 10-year Economic Plan.

Conclusion

Ontario is stronger when we are all working together, as one Ontario.

When we each look out for our neighbours and do what we can to help them along.

That is our role as government as well.

We will continue to be mindful of how we spend each dollar. We will continue to be focused on eliminating the deficit so that future generations are not burdened by more debt.

The investments we are making today are necessary. They are boosting opportunity for people in the face of a challenging global economy. 

Our 10-year plan will help create a stronger Ontario.

It will build opportunities. It will secure the next decade — Ontario’s Decade — and our future.

 

The Honourable Charles Sousa

Minister of Finance