2015 Ontario Budget
Chapter I: Implementing the Plan

Section F: A Fair Society

Building a Fair Society for All Ontarians

A foundational principle of this government is that all Ontarians should have opportunities to realize their full potential. Acting on this principle, the government introduced its plan for a fair society in the 2014 Budget.

This plan will create the conditions that help lift people out of poverty and provide new opportunities for all Ontarians, including the most vulnerable. It is premised on enhancements to essential services and benefits, such as:

  • Enhancing community care by strengthening the recruitment and retention of skilled personal support workers (PSWs);
  • Increasing the minimum wage and tying future increases to inflation;
  • Expanding the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB);
  • Investing $810 million in the provision of community and developmental services to reduce waitlists and expand programs;
  • Increasing social assistance rates;
  • Expanding the Healthy Smiles Ontario program to enable more children from low-income families to receive affordable dental care;
  • Creating a more accessible justice system for low-income individuals and families; and
  • Taking further action to reduce auto insurance rates.

The government is implementing the plan and it is working:

  • On June 1, 2014, the hourly minimum wage rose to $11 and October 2015 will see the minimum wage rise from $11 to $11.25;
  • July 2015 will see the maximum annual OCB per child rise to $1,336, as a result of indexing to inflation for the first time;
  • The government has already eliminated the 2014 Special Services at Home waitlist for children with physical or developmental disabilities, 16 months ahead of the original two-year timeline;
  • By February 2015, 525 more developmentally disabled adults with urgent needs were approved for residential supports;
  • In the fall of 2014, Ontario raised social assistance rates by one per cent for adult Ontario Works recipients and people with disabilities receiving Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits. With both the one per cent increase and an additional top-up, Ontario Works singles without children received a total increase of $30 per month;
  • Starting in 2014, 70,000 more children and youth are eligible for dental care under the Healthy Smiles Ontario program;
  • The government announced a total hourly wage increase of up to $4.00 over three years, raising the base wage of publicly funded PSWs to at least $16.50 per hour by April 1, 2016; and
  • By the spring of 2015, the income eligibility threshold for legal aid will have increased by 12 per cent.

Implementing the plan for a fair society makes Ontario a better place for all, but more needs to be done. That is why the government is continuing to enhance critical supports for Ontarians, with a focus on:

  • Effective health care for all: The Province’s recently released Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care will help ensure that all Ontarians get the high-quality health care services they need and rely on.
  • Renewed Poverty Reduction Strategy: Through its renewed Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Province is raising social assistance rates and investing in initiatives that break the cycle of poverty and enhance employment and income security so all Ontarians have the foundation to reach their full potential. The government is also introducing legislation to enable the implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy and related poverty-reduction initiatives.
  • Assistance for the vulnerable and enhancing safety for all Ontarians: The Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment and enhancements to Ontario’s successful Youth Action Plan will both lead to a safer province, and help bring permanent social change to those at risk.
  • Protecting consumers: The government is proposing legislation that would, if passed, provide the legislative basis for electricity-rate mitigation for low-income individuals and families. The government is also introducing further measures to ensure affordable auto insurance rates.

Effective Health Care System for All

Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care

Since launching Ontario’s Action Plan for Health Care in January 2012, the government has moved forward in transforming health care in the province from a fragmented system with rising costs, to a system focused on better access, quality and value for all Ontarians. The government has reduced growth in health care spending to about two per cent annually from about six to seven per cent per year, significantly bending the health care cost curve while continuing to improve.

Ontario has made important health care advances in recent years:

  • The Province now has the most comprehensive newborn screening program in Canada — babies were checked for just two diseases in 2003; today, they are screened for 29;
  • Ontario had eight publicly funded vaccines in 2003; today, 22 vaccines save Ontarians about $2,500 per child; and
  • In 2014, the Wait Time Alliance gave Ontario straight As for reducing wait times for hip and knee replacements, radiation therapy, and cataract and cardiac bypass surgeries.

The government is committed to sustaining and improving Ontario’s universal public health care system — despite the challenges related to a growing and aging population and more people living with chronic conditions.

An efficient and effective health care system must be forward looking and anticipate rather than react — based on evidence — so that health care interventions are smart, targeted and effective. Putting the needs of people and patients first will help improve patient outcomes and make the best use of every dollar spent.

The government’s 2015 Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care builds on the progress made since 2012. Patients First focuses on four key objectives:

  • Providing faster access to the right care;
  • Delivering better coordinated and integrated care in the community, closer to home;
  • Supporting Ontarians with evidence-based information so they can make the right decisions about their health; and
  • Protecting Ontario’s universal public health care system by making decisions based on value and quality — to sustain the system for generations to come.

Providing Faster Access to the Right Care

The government is committed to making sure Ontarians have improved access to the tools, information and care they need for living and staying healthy, at every stage of life.

Increasing Access to Fertility Treatments and Midwifery

The Province is increasing access to fertility treatments to help more people expand their families. In 2015, Ontario plans to contribute to the costs of one in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle per patient for all eligible forms of infertility — for example, for cancer patients undergoing treatments that cause infertility, giving them hope of having a family one day. Sharing the cost of IVF will improve affordability and access for an estimated 4,000 more patients while protecting the health and safety of the mothers and their babies. Families or their health plans will continue to pay for associated drugs and ancillary services.

Ontario will also continue to support midwifery practice groups and Aboriginal midwives who offer support to expectant mothers and their babies.

Faster Access to Primary Health Care

Often the first point of access, primary care is the foundation of a strong health care system and a necessary component of improving health outcomes and decreasing the burden of disease.

The government continues working to ensure that Ontarians have timely access to primary health care providers, such as family doctors, nurse practitioners and integrated health care teams.

Health Care Connect (HCC) was designed to help patients find a primary health care provider. Today, as a result of HCC and other primary care reforms, 94 per cent of Ontarians have a primary care provider.

To further improve access to primary care providers, and reduce wait times for patients, the government supported Health Quality Ontario’s Advanced Access initiative. The initiative has given patients the opportunity to book an appointment with their provider on the same day or next day of their choice. More than 800 primary care providers have participated, benefiting an estimated 650,000 Ontarians.

As well, close to 3.7 million Ontarians are receiving quality, comprehensive interdisciplinary primary care through Family Health Teams, Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinics, Community Health Centres and Aboriginal Health Access Centres. These approaches give people in diverse communities across Ontario access to an array of health care providers — including doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses and social workers — with the right skills to meet their health care needs, as close to home as possible. Ontario is investing about $4 million, for example, to expand access to physiotherapy services in primary care settings for an estimated 71,000 people across the province.

For those Ontarians who need to consult with a specialist, the government is removing the barriers to direct referrals to specialists by nurse practitioners, so patients get the right care as quickly as possible. Enabling nurse practitioners and other professionals to work to their full scope of practice, particularly on collaborative interdisciplinary teams, allows each health care provider to contribute their skills most efficiently and effectively.

To help all Ontarians get care when and where they need it — including those in northern, rural and fast-growing communities — the government plans to continue organizing primary health care providers and teams around the needs of the population across the province.

Ontario’s health care landscape is evolving. Changing population needs, health system funding reform, and technology are just some of the factors driving this change. To better align key initiatives, maximize investments and ensure that Ontarians have a health care system that is both high quality and sustainable, the government is moving forward to establish a comprehensive capacity planning framework. A sustainable health care system equipped to meet the needs of future generations requires long-term planning to provide appropriate services and establish a complementary infrastructure footprint that reflects the changes occurring across the province. As a way of supporting capacity planning across the health care system, the government is committed to supporting communities with the necessary resources to plan and design health infrastructure. This will be done in a way that reflects the needs of local communities, and will bolster the work of Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) to plan and integrate programs and services, while also aligning with the government’s Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care.

Investing in the Right Care for Mental Health and Addictions

About 30 per cent of Ontarians experience a mental health and/or substance abuse challenge at some point in their lives. Seventy per cent of mental health issues start early in life. That is why the first three years of Ontario’s 10-year Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, launched in 2011, focused on mental health supports for children and youth. As a result, almost 800 more mental health workers now serve children and youth in Ontario communities, schools and courts. Telemental health services are providing almost 3,000 psychiatric consults this year alone, for youth in rural, remote and underserved communities.

Building on the early intervention approach with children and youth, the second phase of the Strategy supports key transitions for people of all ages who need mental health or addictions services — transitions between youth and adult services, between housing, justice and employment services, and between care teams.

With the advice of an expert Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council, the Strategy includes increased access to services such as supportive housing, short-term crisis support and treatment programs.

The next phase of the Strategy includes investing $138 million through LHINs over three years starting in 2014–15 for community organizations across Ontario to improve mental health and addictions services.

Better Access to Mental Health Services

Phase One of the Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy provided more than 50,000 additional children and youth across Ontario with access to mental health and addictions services.

The Mental Health Innovation Fund has funded 32 projects (with up to $6 million annually since 2012) to improve access to high-quality mental health services for postsecondary students.

In addition, the government funded the hiring of 21 full-time registered nurses for early psychosis intervention programs, and 24 new nurse practitioners for Aboriginal Community Health Centres and Aboriginal Health Access Centres.

Providing Better Coordinated and Integrated Care in the Community, Closer to Home

As Ontario’s population ages, the demand for faster access, better coordinated home care and community services continues to grow. Recognizing that quality and appropriate care can be delivered at or near home at a lower cost than in hospitals or long-term care homes, Ontario has more than doubled funding for home care services since 2003.

Ontario is also helping more people receive faster access to quality home and community care and will continue to publicly report on its five-day wait time target. Today, within five days of being approved for services, 93 per cent of eligible patients receive their first nursing visit and 84 per cent receive a visit from a PSW.

The Province is already providing 6.5 million nursing visits and 27 million hours of personal support and home making services to more than 600,000 clients per year. About 1.46 million people, mostly seniors, receive community support services, such as meals, transportation and caregiver support.

To further enhance capacity and drive system transformation, the government will continue to increase funding in the sector by about five per cent per year, investing more than $750 million over the next three years.

Funding will support people of all ages who require care in their home, at school or in the community. This includes:

  • Investing $75 million to support more visits at home for people who need nursing services and more hours of care for those who have complex care needs and require in-home personal support services like dressing, bathing and help taking medication;
  • Moving forward with the recommendations of the report prepared by the Home and Community Care Expert Group, “Bringing Care Home,” by testing innovative approaches to bundle funding specific to a patient’s needs as they transition out of hospital and back into their homes and communities;
  • Investing more than $40 million over four years, including about 10,000 more rehabilitation therapy visits, to enhance coordinated services for frail, complex-needs seniors who have recently lost strength or mobility due to an injury or long hospital stay. Services will help seniors regain strength and remain independent longer, reduce their need for admission to hospital or a long-term care home, and support families and caregivers; and
  • Creating 69 Community Health Links across the province by bringing local health care providers together to work with complex-needs patients and their families by coordinating the delivery of care. By wrapping care around the patient, the team of providers can avoid duplicated or unnecessary services, avoid gaps in their care or prevent trips to the hospital.

How Coordinated Care Helps Improve Outcomes

An 82-year-old married man, who speaks no English, frequently visited his nearby hospital emergency department to obtain free acetaminophen. To improve his care, a care coordinator from the local Community Care Access Centre, which is connected with the local Health Link, visited him at home with a translator. The care coordinator discovered that the man had been visiting the emergency department to relieve pain from an untreated hernia, and did not know how to arrange for surgery through the specialist he had been referred to.

The Health Link, working with the patient’s primary care provider, developed a personalized, coordinated care plan for him, and arranged for the surgery and for someone to accompany him. The care coordinator continued to work closely with the man and his family doctor to ensure he continued to receive appropriate, coordinated primary and community care in line with his own objectives.

Improvement for Personal Support Services and Workers

To meet the growing demand and ensure people receive quality community and home care, Ontario continues to strengthen the recruitment and retention of skilled PSWs. As first announced in the 2014 Budget, to ensure a more equitable compensation model for publicly funded PSWs, the government remains committed to a total hourly wage increase of up to $4.00 over three years, raising their base wage to at least $16.50 per hour by April 1, 2016. The Province’s PSW Workforce Stabilization Strategy also includes measures to create more permanent and less casual employment for PSWs.

Travel Vaccines in Pharmacies

Aiming to give Ontarians more options for care closer to home, while also working to ensure that health care professionals can fully use their skills and knowledge, the government is considering allowing Ontarians to receive travel vaccines in their local pharmacies.

Ensuring Comfort in Long-Term Care Homes

Should the time come for a move into a long-term care (LTC) home, seniors and their families deserve to feel confident and comfortable that they will be well taken care of. That is why the Province continues to conduct rigorous inspections of LTC homes, and requires annual updates and testing of all LTC homes’ fire safety and emergency plans. Ontario is also encouraging capital redevelopment of about 300 older LTC homes, with support to home operators to address disparities between older and newer homes.

Improving Palliative Care Services

In recognition of the tireless and valuable work of volunteers in the hospice and palliative care communities, the government is providing support to Hospice Palliative Care Ontario to expand training for volunteers and caregivers. This will ensure that they are equipped with the skills and resources to support patients and their families, and provide Ontarians with access to tools to cope with bereavement and grief.

These key investments of about $250,000 will build on the government’s commitment to improve the quality of palliative care in Ontario while supporting patients, their caregivers and volunteers.

Providing Information to Help Ontarians Make the Right Decisions about Their Health

Helping Kids Stay Healthy and Active

The government is committed to providing information and support to help Ontarians stay healthy and make the right decisions about their health. To help kids stay healthy, and reduce the long-term health risks and costs associated with childhood obesity, the government’s Healthy Kids Strategy promotes the well-being of Ontario’s children and youth with three aims: a healthy start in life, healthy food, and healthy, active communities.

Healthy Communities

The government’s Healthy Kids Community Challenge has selected 45 communities across Ontario to receive funding, training and guidance on providing local programs over the next four years to encourage healthy behaviours and focus on physical activity and healthy eating.

The government also supports the Northern Fruit and Vegetable Program. Delivered in partnership with the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association, local Public Health Units and their partners, the program provides free servings of fresh fruit and vegetables to over 36,000 school-aged children in communities in the Porcupine, Algoma and Sudbury districts, of whom about 6,600 are of Aboriginal descent.

The proposed Making Healthier Choices Act, 2014, would, if passed, make Ontario the first province to require food service premises with 20 or more locations that provide standard food items to post calories on menus to help families make healthier food choices.

Towards a Smoke-Free Ontario

Ontario’s smoking rate dropped to 18.1 per cent in 2013, down from 24.5 per cent in 2000. To help Ontario achieve the lowest smoking rate in Canada, the government continues to take active steps to protect young people from the health risks and impacts of smoking. As of January 1, 2015, it is illegal to smoke on bar and restaurant patios, in playgrounds, and on public sports fields, and to sell tobacco on university and college campuses. To discourage youth under age 19 from buying tobacco or developing a smoking habit, the government has proposed banning the sale of flavoured tobacco products, which often appeal to young people. Bans are also proposed on the use of electronic or e-cigarettes anywhere tobacco smoking is prohibited, and on the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under age 19.

Sustaining Ontario’s Universal Publicly Funded Health Care System for Generations to Come

A sustainable health care system means controlling costs and targeting funding, with a focus on preventing illness and improving results for patients. Three key elements continue to drive the sustainability of the health care system and promote confidence in its future, including:

  • Health System Funding Reform;
  • Strengthening integrated care; and
  • Providing the right care at the right time and place.

Renewed Poverty Reduction Strategy

All Ontarians should have opportunities to realize their full potential and lead healthy and prosperous lives.

In September 2014, the government released its renewed Poverty Reduction Strategy — Realizing Our Potential. This new Strategy focuses on long-term and sustainable solutions that break the cycle of poverty. The Province is undertaking a multi-faceted approach to tackling the root causes of poverty, by making investments in public services such as health care, income security, employment supports, and affordable housing, and investments to end homelessness.

Given the high social and economic costs of poverty, enhancing key social services can help reduce costs over the longer term.

The Strategy’s Four Pillars

Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy has four pillars:

  • Breaking the cycle of poverty for children and youth;
  • Moving towards greater employment and income security;
  • Ending homelessness and investing in affordable housing; and
  • Using evidence to develop policy and measure success.

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty for Children and Youth

Between 2003 and 2015, the total income (after tax and transfers) of a single parent with two children, working full time at minimum wage, increased from about $20,000 to over $36,000.

Programs that support children can help the whole family get ahead. From 2008 to 2011, the most recent years for which historical data on poverty are available,1 the Strategy helped lift 47,000 children out of poverty.

The government’s investments also help keep children and their families from falling into poverty. In 2011 alone, 61,000 children and their families were prevented from falling into poverty.

This progress has been achieved in part by the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB), a key element of the Strategy. The government enhanced the maximum annual OCB per child by $100 in July 2014. Beginning in July 2015, the OCB’s maximum benefit and the income threshold at which it starts to be reduced will be indexed to annual increases in the Ontario Consumer Price Index. The maximum annual OCB per child will be $1,336, and the income threshold will be $20,400 in July 2015.

The Ontario Child Benefit

The Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) is an income-tested, non-taxable, provincial payment that is provided monthly to low- to moderate-income families to help with the cost of raising children. This year, the OCB will support about one million children in more than 500,000 families.

The government has also introduced initiatives that support the well-being of children and break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Starting in 2014, the Healthy Smiles Ontario program was enhanced, allowing approximately 70,000 more children and youth to receive the dental care provided under this program. As a next step, the government will integrate a number of existing programs into the Healthy Smiles Ontario program. This initiative will help families obtain dental care they otherwise could not afford, faster and more easily — with streamlined registration.

Building on this progress, the government is committed to providing extended health benefits such as vision care, prescription drug coverage, assistive devices and mental health care to children in low-income families. Ongoing regular health care prevents emergencies, improves long-term health and reduces the impact of poverty.

Taken together, these commitments will help the government continue to make progress towards achieving its commitment to reduce child poverty by 25 per cent.

Moving towards Employment and Income Security

While government programs help break the cycle of poverty, achieving employment and income security is critical for Ontarians to succeed. That is why the renewed Poverty Reduction Strategy aims to support and encourage people to find meaningful employment. It continues to focus on providing opportunities for youth and vulnerable populations to develop the skills and experience needed to enter the labour market.

For example, the Employment Service — part of Employment Ontario — has helped more than 684,000 Ontarians look for a job at more than 400 points of service across the province.

The government is focusing its employment and training resources on those who need them most, including implementing a comprehensive suite of programs and services tailored to the needs of youth. This includes Youth Job Connection, which will provide intensive employment supports for youth who experience multiple barriers to employment.

Some Ontario families and individuals may, for various reasons, experience challenges in achieving financial independence. The Province’s social assistance programs provide supports for these vulnerable Ontarians.

In 2013 and 2014, Ontario implemented social assistance rate increases and provided top-ups for those with the lowest incomes, namely single adults without children receiving Ontario Works. Building on this progress, the government will further increase social assistance rates in 2015 by one per cent for adult Ontario Works clients and people with disabilities receiving Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits. The government will provide a further top-up for single adults without children receiving Ontario Works. With both the one per cent increase and the top-up, Ontario Works single adults without children will receive a total increase of $25 per month, giving these recipients $75 more per month than they had in 2012.

In addition, the comfort allowance will increase by one per cent for low-income residents of long-term care homes.

Social assistance rate increases will take effect in October 2015 for ODSP and in November 2015 for Ontario Works. Municipalities will not be required to cost-share the Ontario Works rate increase until January 2016.

With this increase, and the social assistance changes announced in 2013 and 2014, the government has taken important first steps in addressing the recommendations of the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario. Ontario will continue to reform social assistance guided by the Commission’s recommendations and over the coming year will consult with clients, stakeholders and other partners on how to redesign the rate structure.

Moving forward, the Province will continue to make investments that are strategic and support employment and income security. However, Ontario’s plan for a fair society requires support from the federal government. For example, the Province continues to call on the federal government to make enhancements to the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) to help the lowest income earners gain a stronger foothold in the labour market.

Ending Homelessness and Investing in Affordable Housing

When Ontarians are not securely housed, it impacts all facets of their lives — from their ability to access education and training, to finding and keeping a job, to feeling secure and staying healthy. Unfortunately, low- to moderate-income individuals and families often face significant challenges in finding and retaining suitable and affordable housing.

Expert Advisory Panel on Homelessness

In early 2015, the government established an Expert Advisory Panel on Homelessness that will advise on a provincial definition of homelessness, methods to improve the collection of data about homelessness, and applying evidence to promote the most effective approaches to preventing and ending homelessness.

Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy

Ontario’s Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy (LTAHS), released in 2010 and currently being implemented as part of the government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, is intended to give municipalities more flexibility in creating affordable housing for Ontario’s most vulnerable households. It also calls on the federal government to provide long-term, flexible funding for affordable housing.

The government has committed to review the LTAHS in 2015–16 to reflect lessons learned and integrate new research on best practices related to housing and homelessness.

Extending the Investment in Affordable Housing Program

The Province continues to build new affordable housing and repair existing units for Ontarians with housing needs. Ontario’s funding commitment of more than $4 billion towards affordable housing since 2003 is the largest such investment in the province’s history. With this funding, Ontario supports the creation of more than 20,000 new affordable rental housing units, more than 275,000 repairs and improvements to social and affordable housing units, and rental and down-payment assistance to more than 90,000 additional households in need.

Extending the jointly funded federal–provincial Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) program for another five years is a key component of the LTAHS moving forward. Both governments signed an agreement to extend the IAH program in August 2014.

Through the IAH program, low-income households can access new affordable rental housing, receive down-payment assistance to own an affordable home, and repair and modify their homes.

The program also provides dedicated funding assistance for the housing needs of off-reserve Aboriginal communities and remote communities in northern Ontario.

Ontario is contributing $80 million annually over five years to this renewed program, cost-matched by the federal government.

Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative

A housing-first approach to homelessness is based on the concept that a person’s first and most basic need — aside from food and clean water — is stable housing. Stable and affordable housing helps at-risk individuals have better access to training and employment, and to various services such as health care.

Established on January 1, 2013, the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) combines funding from five formerly separate housing and homelessness programs into a single, flexible and locally coordinated program. The CHPI is administered by municipal service managers to better meet the needs of individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

In August 2014, consistent with the success of the housing-first approach in Ontario, the government announced an additional $42 million in annual CHPI funding to municipalities, beginning in 2014–15, for a total of $294 million annually. On March 30, 2015, the Province announced the allocation of $587 million to municipalities to help families and individuals at risk of homelessness get the housing that best suits their needs. This funding will enable communities to offer a wider range of services to meet their local needs.

Measuring the Outcomes of the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI)

In 2013–14, its first year of operation, the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) helped approximately 33,100 households experiencing homelessness obtain transitional or permanent housing. It also helped approximately 83,800 households at risk of homelessness remain in their homes.

Affordable Housing Changes Lives

Fred had been homeless in London for 15 years. In a single year, he made 259 visits to the hospital and had 108 encounters with the police. Since being housed a year ago, he has visited the hospital twice and had six encounters with the police. Fred is Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy in action.

Using Evidence to Develop Policy and Measure Success

Measuring success is at the core of Ontario’s poverty reduction efforts. Launched in 2008, the first Poverty Reduction Strategy established specific indicators to help the Province track progress. While progress has been made, more needs to be done.

The new Strategy builds on the foundation of the first one and strengthens the government’s commitment to measuring success, with a dedicated focus on evidence-based policy and the introduction of new indicators. By measuring the impact of government investments, the Province can help identify further opportunities to prevent and reduce poverty in Ontario.

The Local Poverty Reduction Fund, announced in the 2014 Budget, is a $50 million fund that will be used to combat poverty in new, innovative, evidence-based ways — specifically at the local level. The government will collaborate with organizations that know what works best for their communities. Successful applicants to the Fund will identify local, innovative solutions to poverty reduction. These new solutions will demonstrate proven, measurable results, and the potential to be scaled up to a larger level for similar communities across Ontario. The Fund will provide funding over six years, starting in the fall of 2015.

Assistance for the Vulnerable and Enhancing Safety

The Province as a whole benefits when all Ontarians overcome barriers and achieve their full potential. That is why the government is investing in programs and services that increase access to justice and support vulnerable groups, including at-risk youth, people with disabilities, and victims of sexual violence and harassment.

Supporting People with Developmental Disabilities

People with developmental disabilities want to be active participants in their communities. The government is committed to providing — and improving on — local programs and services that promote inclusion and involvement.

In keeping with this commitment, the 2014 Budget announced $810 million over three years as part of an action plan to build stronger services and supports for individuals while encouraging new approaches, collaboration and partnerships in the developmental services system. This total investment is the single largest increase in funding to the sector in Ontario’s history.

Since last fall, as part of this investment, the government has provided direct funding to 8,000 more children with developmental disabilities and their families through the Special Services at Home program, eliminating the 2014 waitlist 16 months ahead of the original two-year timeline. At the same time, 525 more adults with urgent needs — including vulnerable young adults transitioning from children’s services — have been approved for residential supports.

As part of this action plan, the government has also:

  • Launched the Community Transportation Pilot Grant Program, a two-year program to improve community transportation services for people with disabilities, and others, allowing them to take advantage of more community programs and services;
  • Established the Developmental Services Housing Task Force to collaborate with community partners to find innovative and inclusive housing solutions for people with developmental disabilities; and
  • Supported 38 community-based projects under the new Developmental Services Employment and Modernization Fund to promote greater inclusion and independence for people with developmental disabilities through meaningful employment and modernized service delivery.

Developmental Services in Action: Promoting Inclusive Employment

The $810 million investment in the community and developmental services sector announced in the 2014 Budget is directly supporting more than 600 non-profit delivery partners across Ontario, enabling them to provide more and better programs and services for their clients with developmental disabilities. One area of particular focus is promoting opportunities for employment for those with developmental disabilities.

For example, LiveWorkPlay, an Ottawa organization that champions community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities, helps developmentally disabled adults find employment in the Ottawa area. With Provincial funding assistance provided to LiveWorkPlay, Royce Rinne has had an opportunity to work at a local car dealership, counting and cataloguing spare parts. After a brief trial period, Royce was offered a part-time position as an Inventory Analyst. Royce’s commitment to and success on the job has inspired two partner dealerships and a third separate dealership to employ other LiveWorkPlay clients.

“Being paid well and living on my own — that makes me very happy.” — Royce Rinne

Ontario’s Youth Action Plan: Helping At-Risk Youth Succeed

All young people in Ontario have the potential to contribute positively to their communities and to the province. Unfortunately, some youth face more significant obstacles to success than others. At-risk youth are those who have faced discrimination or a difficult socioeconomic or family environment. As a result, they may experience social exclusion and higher unemployment, and have lower levels of educational achievement and fewer opportunities than their peers. Sometimes, these factors contribute to youth violence.

In 2012, Ontario’s Youth Action Plan was developed to foster safer communities and give young people the support and opportunities they need to succeed. The first phase of the Youth Action Plan has been implemented. The first phase and other programs and supports targeted towards at-risk youth have contributed to improved outcomes.

For example, the overall youth crime rate in Ontario is 43 per cent lower than in 2003. The youth violent crime rate is down by 30 per cent over the same period — better than the national rate, which dropped 28 per cent. And, since 2006, nearly 128,000 young people have benefited from the support and mentorship of a youth outreach worker in the province.

Despite these successes, however, much more needs to be done. The government will implement the next phase of the Youth Action Plan — an annual, cross-government investment starting at $14 million in 2015–16, and growing to almost $21 million in 2016–17.

This investment will further the Province’s efforts to prevent youth violence by:

  • Addressing service gaps for youth with the highest needs;
  • Scaling up local initiatives that have been shown to have real, positive results; and
  • Expanding youth opportunities to high-needs areas of Ontario that were not included in the first phase of the Youth Action Plan.

Ontario’s Youth Action Plan: Successes in Outreach

One of the initiatives under Ontario’s Youth Action Plan is the Youth Outreach Worker program. Under this program, outreach workers meet at-risk youth in the places they gather to make sure they know about the wide range of programs and services available to them. The workers also encourage young people to get involved in positive projects in their community. Since 2012, with funding from the Province, the number of Youth Outreach Workers across the province has increased from 62 to 97.

Likwa Nkala, Lead for the East Quadrant Youth Outreach Worker Team and Outreach and Resource Specialist, East Metro (Toronto) Youth Services, has had a positive impact on many over the years. Since he began in his role, Likwa has helped hundreds of at-risk youth on a one-on-one basis and hundreds more through presentations and workshops.

An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment

Sexual violence and harassment cross all social boundaries, affect people of every age and culture, and can profoundly affect survivors and their families. To combat sexual violence and harassment, and improve support for survivors, the government announced It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment on March 6, 2015. The Action Plan will lead the way to a safer Ontario and move the Province forward in its collective aim to bring permanent social change to an issue that has resisted change for far too long.

The Action Plan includes a number of key initiatives, including:

  • The #whowillyouhelp multimedia public education campaign, which aims to help change behaviours and calls on bystanders to intervene; the campaign has received positive attention across the world since its launch on March 6, 2015;
  • A new health and physical education curriculum that will help students, from Grades 1 to 12, develop a deeper learning about healthy relationships and consent;
  • Stronger workplace safety legislation that, if passed, would require employers to investigate and address workplace harassment, including sexual harassment;
  • An enhanced prosecution model tailored to the needs of sexual assault cases that will help ensure that all such charges are prosecuted as fairly, effectively and respectfully as possible;
  • Legislation that, if passed, would eliminate the two-year limitation period for civil sexual assault claims and claims of sexual assault before the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board;
  • Increased and stabilized funding for supports for survivors provided by community partners; and
  • Introduction of legislation to require colleges and universities to work with students to adopt campus-wide sexual violence and harassment policies that include training, prevention, complaint procedures and response protocols.

Increased Legal Aid Eligibility

The income eligibility threshold is the income level below which a person qualifies for legal aid assistance.

To ensure low-income families and vulnerable groups have the legal supports they need, the government is continuing to expand access to legal aid by raising the income eligibility threshold.

Before November 1, 2014, when the first scheduled increase took place, the income eligibility threshold had not been increased since the 1990s. The next increase took place on April 1, 2015. This plan, when fully implemented, would allow over one million more people to qualify for legal aid services — more than doubling the number of low-income individuals with access to legal aid.

Seniors Community Grant Program

Ontario is providing more opportunities for seniors to participate in their communities by doubling the Seniors Community Grant Program to $2 million per year. The Seniors Community Grant Program is focused on encouraging initiatives and projects in the non-profit sector that promote greater social inclusion, volunteerism, education and community engagement for seniors. Since its creation in the fall of 2013, more than 40,000 seniors across the province have benefited from this program.

Seniors Community Grant Program: Community Engagement Projects

The Seniors Community Grant Program has already supported 179 projects. Recipient organizations located across the province have been working to increase financial literacy, provide education about health and wellness issues, and promote activities that allowed seniors to volunteer in the community and interact with other seniors and young people. These programs included:

  • The Somali Centre for Family Services in Ottawa engaged marginalized and isolated, multicultural seniors and provided them with a chance to volunteer within their own culture and language, and establish support networks that decreased their isolation and engaged them as active participants in their own community;
  • Crisis Homes in Thunder Bay planned a one-day Senior Women Connecting for Life conference on self-care and wellness that targeted women who have been, or are currently, in an abusive relationship;
  • The Parkdale Golden Age Foundation in Toronto helped youth train computer-savvy seniors to become volunteer peer trainers on new technologies; and
  • Connecting Miles of Smiles in Ottawa offered technology training between local seniors and foreign students seeking to improve their spoken English in order to foster greater social involvement and intergenerational opportunities.

Community Hubs

The government recently announced the creation of the Community Hub Framework Advisory Group to develop a strategic framework to better meet local residents’ needs. Karen Pitre, Special Advisor to the Premier on Community Hubs, will chair the Advisory Group.

A community hub can be a school, a neighbourhood centre or another public space that offers coordinated services such as education, health care and social services. The advisory group will review provincial policies and develop a framework for adapting existing public assets to become community hubs.

The Community Hub Framework Advisory Group will:

  • Gather input from Ontarians;
  • Foster partnerships among community organizations and other groups to ensure that the framework addresses local needs; and
  • Examine best practices in Ontario and other jurisdictions.

Delivering coordinated public services through community hubs will ensure these services better meet the needs of children, youth and seniors.

Fairness for Ontario Consumers

Promoting consumer protection helps people make informed choices, spend wisely and protect their hard-earned money. The government continues to address a wide variety of pressing marketplace concerns, including:

  • Taking further action to protect auto insurance consumers and ensure affordable premiums;
  • Keeping electricity cost-effective and efficient;
  • Connecting remote communities to the electricity grid; and
  • Increasing protection in the condominium market.

Taking Further Action to Protect Auto Insurance Consumers and Ensure Affordable Premiums

Affordable auto insurance is important to Ontario’s 9.4 million drivers. Ontarians across the province rely on cars to get to work and school, and to participate in their communities.

Protecting Ontario’s Consumers

In November 2014, the Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act, 2014, was passed. In addition to strengthening consumer protections regarding towing and vehicle storage for Ontario drivers involved in traffic collisions or in need of roadside assistance, the passage of this Act will help Ontario drivers settle disputes with insurers and get faster access to the benefits they need by transforming Ontario’s auto insurance dispute resolution system (DRS).

Based on recommendations from the Honourable J. Douglas Cunningham’s Auto Insurance Dispute Resolution System Review, the new DRS will be housed within the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Licence Appeal Tribunal and will begin accepting accident benefit dispute applications on April 1, 2016.

The government will also take additional action to increase consumer protection and help reduce auto insurance costs by:

  • Lowering the maximum interest rate charged on monthly auto insurance premium payments to 1.3 per cent from three per cent;
  • Prohibiting premium increases for minor at-fault accidents that meet certain criteria (e.g., no reported injuries); and
  • Requiring that all insurers offer a discount for the use of winter tires.

The government will work with stakeholders in the coming months to implement these initiatives in a timely, efficient and responsible way. The government also continues its work to ensure that insurer claims management practices are fair, protect consumers, and promote affordable premiums.

Scientific and Evidence-Based Approaches

The government will also continue to ensure, where possible, that insurance coverages reflect the most relevant scientific and medical knowledge on identifying and treating injuries from automobile accidents. This approach will provide clarity to help minimize disputes in the auto insurance system and ensure that people get the treatment they need after an automobile accident.

Accordingly, the government will amend Insurance Act regulations to update the catastrophic impairment definition consistent with more up-to-date medical information and knowledge.

Ensuring Affordable Premiums and Providing More Consumer Choice

In 2010, the government introduced a number of reforms to reduce the costs of fraud and abuse in the auto insurance system and provide more choice to consumers. These reforms worked to reduce costs in Ontario, making them closer to comparable provinces’. But in 2013, costs in Ontario’s auto insurance system began to increase again.

The August 2013 launch of the government’s Auto Insurance Cost and Rate Reduction Strategy included additional reforms to further lower auto insurance costs, which helped reduce auto insurance rates by more than six per cent on average as of last fall.

However, while progress has been made, costs in Ontario’s auto insurance system remain too high.

The government will continue to take action to further lower costs. As in the past, reforms will continue to balance the needs of injured claimants to recover and resume work and regular activity as quickly as possible, with protecting consumer interest by ensuring affordable insurance for Ontario drivers.

Ontario’s auto insurance system remains the most generous among Canadian jurisdictions with private marketplace systems. And the government’s reforms will continue to ensure the generosity of Ontario’s auto insurance accident benefits.

To further reduce costs in Ontario’s auto insurance system, bring these costs more in line with other provinces, and provide Ontario consumers with more choice in purchasing auto insurance to suit their needs, the government will amend Insurance Act regulations to:

  • Change the standard benefit level for medical and rehabilitation benefits to $65,000 (from $50,000) and include attendant care services under this benefit limit. Consumers will also have an option to increase that coverage up to $1 million;
  • Include attendant care services with the $1 million medical and rehabilitation benefit for catastrophic impairments, and provide the option for additional coverage of $1 million, for $2 million in total coverage;
  • Reduce the standard duration of medical and rehabilitation benefits from 10 years to five years for all claimants except children;
  • Eliminate the six-month waiting period for non-earner benefits and limit the duration of non-earner benefits to two years after the accident;
  • Require goods and services not explicitly listed in the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS) to be “essential” and agreed on by the insurer; and
  • Change the standard deductible for comprehensive coverage to $500 from $300.

Working with the auto insurance industry, the government will ensure that consumers are aware of the changes to the standard auto insurance policy and can make an informed decision should they choose to take advantage of enhanced optional coverages to suit their needs.

Adjustments for Inflation

In addition, to ensure that the auto insurance system reflects the effects of inflation, the government will propose amendments to the Insurance Act and regulations to:

  • Adjust the deductible on court awards for non-pecuniary (i.e., pain and suffering) damages to reflect inflation in Ontario since 2003, and link the deductible to future changes in inflation;
  • Adjust the monetary thresholds beyond which the tort deductible does not apply to reflect inflation in Ontario since 2003, and link the thresholds to future changes in inflation; and
  • Allow for the effect of the tort deductible to be taken into account when determining a party’s entitlement to costs in an action for damages from bodily injury or death arising directly or indirectly from the use or operation of an automobile.

These changes will restore the policy rationale and integrity of these deductibles and thresholds to when they were last updated in 2003. Existing optional coverage to reduce tort deductible amounts will remain unchanged, and consumers will continue to have options to customize their coverages to suit their needs.

Keeping Electricity Cost-Effective and Efficient

The government has taken action to help transform Ontario’s electricity system and make it clean, reliable and affordable for all Ontarians. These efforts include measures to reduce costs for residents, particularly low-income residents.

Ontario Electricity Support Program

Low-income Ontarians spend a disproportionate share of their disposable income on electricity costs. A typical household with income under $20,000 spends about 10 per cent of its annual earnings on electricity, whereas a household earning $100,000 or more spends less than two per cent.

To address this disparity, the 2014 Budget announced that the Ontario Energy Board would be required to report back on electricity system options for a sustainable, long-term electricity support program specifically designed for low-income Ontario families. In March 2015, the government announced details of the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) to provide a monthly benefit of $20 to $50 directly on the bills of Ontario’s most vulnerable citizens. The size of this benefit would be assessed based on income level and household size, and the program would begin on January 1, 2016.

Proposed amendments to the Ontario Energy Board Act, 1998, would enable the implementation of the OESP. The Ontario Energy Board is moving forward now with the detailed design and implementation that would help ensure low-income electricity consumers have continued access to clean and reliable electricity as the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit concludes on December 31, 2015.

Removing the Debt Retirement Charge from Residential Bills

As part of its commitment to reduce electricity cost pressures, the government is moving forward with removing the Debt Retirement Charge (DRC) from residential electricity users’ bills after December 31, 2015.

This would save a typical residential user about $70 each year and would mean ending the DRC earlier for these users than otherwise provided for in the Electricity Act, 1998. The charge will remain on all other electricity users’ bills until the residual stranded debt is retired — this is currently estimated to occur by the end of 2018, as published in the 2014 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review.

The residual stranded debt has been reduced by an estimated $9.3 billion from its estimated peak of $11.9 billion as at March 31, 2004.

Aboriginal Loan Guarantee Program

The Aboriginal Loan Guarantee Program (ALGP) was launched in 2009 to facilitate Aboriginal participation in renewable energy infrastructure projects. To date, the program has leveraged significant investments, with almost $200 million in approved loan guarantees supporting the investments of 11 communities, representing more than 16,000 First Nation people. The six projects supported by the ALGP have invested more than $3.6 billion in the province. These include the recently approved loan guarantees that support a portion of the investment by the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation and the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation in the Bruce to Milton transmission line, and a portion of the investment by Rainy River First Nations in three solar facilities.

The ALGP is aligned with other Provincial programs supporting Aboriginal participation in the electricity sector, including the Independent Electricity System Operator’s Feed-in Tariff Program, Aboriginal Renewable Energy Fund and Aboriginal Transmission Fund.

Connecting Remote Communities to the Electricity Grid

The government recognizes that connecting remote First Nation communities in northwestern Ontario to the electricity grid is an important social and economic priority. The 2013 Long-Term Energy Plan highlighted that there is a strong economic case for connecting up to 21 First Nation communities, currently supplied by unreliable and unsustainable diesel generation, to Ontario’s transmission and distribution grid. Ontario is also committed to exploring alternatives to reduce diesel use in remote First Nation communities where connection is not economically feasible.

Ontario is fully committed to moving forward with the construction of the necessary infrastructure to connect and reduce diesel use in these communities. However, the Province expects the federal government to find an equitable way to share investment costs for this transformative initiative. The Independent Electricity System Operator has estimated that these changes could save up to $1 billion, compared to the cost of supplying diesel over the next 40 years. It is essential that both orders of government work together to ensure the
long-term sustainability and economic prosperity of the region.

Increasing Protection in the Condominium Market

Building on the announcement in the 2014 Budget, the Province is moving forward with reforms to the Condominium Act, 1998, including the establishment of mandatory qualifications for condominium managers. The Province will also be creating two administrative authorities to license condominium managers and improve education and dispute resolution for condominium corporation boards and owners.

1 Statistics Canada has changed the survey used to measure poverty rates and released data only for 2012. The agency has cautioned that results for 2012 are not comparable with previous estimates. It will not be possible to provide an update on progress in reducing child poverty until historical estimates are released by Statistics Canada.

Chart Descriptions

Chart 1.16: Ontario’s Accident Benefits Claims Costs Decrease from Past Reforms but Remain Highest

This line chart shows the change in the dollar amount of accident benefits claims costs per insured vehicle from 2006 to 2013 in Ontario, Alberta and the Atlantic provinces. This chart shows that although the 2010 Ontario automobile insurance reforms reduced accident benefits claims costs, these costs remain significantly higher in Ontario than in Alberta or the Atlantic provinces.

This line chart shows that in 2006, accident benefits claims costs per insured vehicle in Ontario were $331, reaching a peak of $588 in 2009, dropped to $283 in 2012, and then experienced an increase to $313 in 2013. In 2006, accident benefits claims costs per insured vehicle in Alberta were $36, reaching a peak of $42 in 2012 and decreasing to $40 in 2013.  In 2006, accident benefits claims cost per insured vehicle in the Atlantic provinces were $52, reaching a peak of $57 in 2010, and decreasing to $55 in 2013.

Return to Chart 1.16