2016 Ontario Budget
Chapter I: Building Prosperity and Creating Jobs

Section C: Investing in People’s Talents and Skills


High-quality child care and a world-class primary and secondary education enrich the lives of children and their families. They also foster communities of engaged and caring participants. Moreover, high-quality education and training — starting from the earliest years and continuing throughout a person’s working life — enable Ontarians to acquire and retain good jobs, while adapting and thriving in today’s demanding and competitive global environment.

Transforming Child Care and Early Learning

Ontario is moving towards an accessible, high-quality child care system that meets local demand and increasingly provides integrated early years programs and services for children and their families. It also supports healthy child development today and a stronger future tomorrow.

The government’s efforts to modernize child care are transforming the way programs and services are delivered, leading to better outcomes for children and a more seamless experience for families. Actions taken to date include:

  • Modernizing the legislative and regulatory framework for child care;
  • Enhancing program quality, consistency and access in child care and early years programs to reflect a focus on safe and healthy child development and improved supports for parents and families; and
  • Making full-day kindergarten (FDK) available to every four- and five-year-old in Ontario since September 2014.

Legislative and Regulatory Framework

Through the introduction of the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014, which came into effect in August 2015, the government is modernizing the legislative and regulatory framework for child care, including strengthening oversight of the unlicensed child care sector, increasing capacity in the licensed child care sector, and improving data and information available to parents and the public.

The government is also taking steps to more quickly address urgent issues in support of quality, health and safety in a licensed child care environment, and is setting higher standards for the health and safety of children.

Ontario is committed to the continued improvement of the child care and early years regulatory framework that will maintain momentum for positive change and continue to enable the modernization and transformation of the child care sector.

Together, these changes will update Ontario's child care and early years system, better support parents across the province, and ensure that children have the best possible start in life.

Investing in Results, Improving Access

Since 2004, the government has made significant investments in child care, doubling funding to more than $1 billion annually. This funding supports an estimated 447,472 children who benefit from Ontario’s child care investments. In 2015, the Province allocated an additional $44.5 million in child care funding through the funding formula, which helped avoid sudden and rapid fluctuations in fees, improved the reliability of child care, and better met the needs of child care operators and parents — protecting the gains made through previously announced investments.

Ontario continues to improve access to child care. In 2015, the government implemented a wage increase of $1 per hour for eligible child care workers in the licensed sector. Another wage increase will be implemented this year, increasing wages by up to $2 per hour to support recruiting and retaining qualified educators and helping child care operators stabilize their labour force.

The government continues to build on its commitment through the Ontario Early Years Policy Framework to integrate child and family support services into Ontario Early Years Child and Family Centres, to ensure accessibility, consistency and quality of service levels across the province to support parents, caregivers and children. Integrating family support programs is the next step in building a high-quality, seamless and accessible system for children and their families. It removes barriers to accessing programs and makes them easier to navigate and more convenient for families to use.

How Early Years Child and Family Centres Will Help Improve Service Experience

Amanda is a single parent from Brantford, with a new baby. She opens her welcome home kit from the hospital and finds information on the Ontario Early Years Child and Family Centres, including a link to a provincial early years website. She visits the website and finds useful resources on early childhood development, postnatal care and a number of program offerings in her community.

The next week, Amanda attends a drop-in program in her neighbourhood and is warmly welcomed by the Early Years Child and Family Centre staff and other new parents. The centre staff provides Amanda with information on a support group so that she is supported and connected to her community.

Full-Day Kindergarten

With the province-wide implementation of FDK, Ontario became a leader in early learning, and the first jurisdiction in North America to implement this leading program. With more than $1.5 billion in funding, FDK is one of the most significant investments Ontario has made in education in a generation.

The program supports over 260,000 children in approximately 3,600 schools across the province. It saves families up to $6,500 a year per child on child care costs. Studies show that it better prepares students to enter Grade 1 and to be more successful in school compared with those in half-day programs.

“Children’s early experiences have profound and long-lasting influences on their development and on the kind of learner they become.”1

Supporting Every Child, Reaching Every Student

Achieving Excellence

The government continues to move forward along the path to excellence in education from early years to adulthood.

That is why the Province is continuing to implement “Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario,” a new vision for education with a focus on achieving excellence, ensuring equity, promoting well-being and enhancing confidence in the publicly funded education system.

The government is meeting its 2015 Budget commitment to continually improve its world-class education system by building on the progress of successive investments in education. In 2014, 84 per cent of students graduated from high school, up from 68 per cent in 2004.

Since the 2015 Budget, the government has introduced a number of initiatives in furthering the implementation of “Achieving Excellence,” including:

  • Expanding the Specialist High Skills Major and Dual Credit Programs to enhance 21st century learning; and
  • Launching Experience Ontario, an investment in early career experience.

High Skills Learning — Expanding Specialist High Skills Major

The Specialist High Skills Major program offers high school students the opportunity to match their skills and interests with a career path while earning their high school diploma.

Ontario expanded the Specialist High Skills Major and Dual Credit Programs, helping an additional 2,000 and 600 students, respectively, turn their passions into career opportunities.

As announced in the 2015 Budget, a Specialist High Skills Major pilot program is also being expanded to train 8,500 students in skills that are valuable in today's economy, including innovative thinking, problem solving, creativity and entrepreneurship.

In March 2015, 24 manufacturing Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) candidates from Listowel District Secondary School participated in an innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship (ICE) training day in the City of Stratford.

The ICE training of the SHSM program encourages the application of key skills to a unique experience solving real-world, sector-relevant challenges, developed in consultation with employers and sector partners. It equips students with the skills that employers are looking for.2

The Dual Credit Program helps students who face barriers to graduating high school to earn credits that count towards their high school diploma and a postsecondary certificate, college diploma, degree or apprenticeship certification. In 2015, the program was expanded to include an additional 600 students across the province.

Experience Ontario

Experience Ontario is a two-year, $20 million pilot program that was launched in 2015. The program will give up to 600 students across the province valuable work experience, career coaching and mentorship in its first year. It will encourage graduating high school students to choose the appropriate postsecondary educational path for them, and help them succeed once they enrol.

The Path Forward

Ontario is a welcoming and inclusive society. The government is working to ensure seamless, coordinated and appropriate support for the children of refugees who are arriving in Ontario, to ensure that these new students will be set up to succeed.

Over the next year, the Province will be welcoming about 4,000 school-aged Syrian refugees in Ontario school boards, as part of efforts to support refugees starting a new life in the province. See Chapter I, Section E: Towards a Fair Society for more details on supporting the settlement of refugees in Ontario.

Responding to Recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

The government has made it a priority to acknowledge and teach the history and legacy of residential schools in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) recommendations, from a three-year annual investment of $5 million in the education sector from 2016–17 to 2018–19.

This funding will be used to help develop resources on the history and legacy of treaties, residential schools and Indigenous peoples in Ontario. This will help enhance teaching resources, build capacity and provide learning opportunities to build skills among Ontario educators to encourage critical thinking and deepen the understanding of Canadian treaties. See Chapter I, Section E: Towards a Fair Society for more details on the Commission’s report.

Broadband Services across Ontario School Boards

To support the learning and teaching requirements of the 21st century, the government is ensuring that Ontario’s publicly funded school boards have equitable and affordable access to high-speed broadband services.

Ontario will help school boards, especially those in northern and remote communities, gain access to high-speed connectivity, to support stronger 21st century competencies and learning needs.

Investing in Tomorrow’s Workforce

The government’s investments in postsecondary education and training play a critical role in preparing people for the workforce. This will be increasingly important as Ontario continues to transition towards a more knowledge-based economy, where workers need higher education or specialized skills for good job opportunities. Seven out of 10 new jobs in Canada will be in high-skilled or management occupations.3 Overall, Ontarians with higher levels of education and skills have better employment prospects, earn higher wages, and have improved health and longevity. The Premier’s Highly Skilled Workforce Strategy Expert Panel has been appointed to build on the strength of Ontario’s current education system. See Employment and Training Services later in this section for further details.

Ontario’s highly educated workforce is one of its greatest strengths. In 2014, 66 per cent of adults in Ontario had a postsecondary credential, up from 56 per cent in 2002 — higher than the rates for any country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development — positioning Ontario well to meet or exceed its 70 per cent target by 2020.

Despite important gains in recent years, the government recognizes that further improvements to its education and skills training systems are needed to ensure Ontario’s workforce continues to be among the most skilled in the world and well equipped to adjust to a changing labour market.

Improving Access to Postsecondary Education

The government is building on previous successes to make postsecondary education more accessible and affordable. Ontario has incorporated feedback from students to ensure financial assistance has evolved to meet their changing needs. The Province has introduced a suite of changes in recent years to make the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) simpler and more fair for students.

Investments in student financial aid over the past 12 years have also resulted in a more than 150 per cent increase in the number of students qualifying for aid, an increase of 230,000. During this time, enrolment in postsecondary education increased by 38 per cent, or an additional 176,000 students.

Frances is from a family earning $30,000 per year — she has a 38 per cent likelihood of attending college or university.

Rahul is from a family earning $110,000 per year — he has a 63 per cent likelihood of attending college or university.

Rates of participation in postsecondary education by Ontario youth are higher than for the rest of Canada. This is the case across all income bands. However, despite the strong outcomes that Ontario has achieved, students from lower-income families continue to participate in postsecondary education at much lower rates than those from higher-income families.

For Ontario to thrive in the knowledge-based economy, the government needs to ensure all members of society are given the opportunities, as well as the tools, they need to succeed. This is why Ontario is moving forward with modernizing student financial assistance by introducing a system that is more progressive, effective and transparent for students and their families. These changes will provide students who have the greatest need for financial assistance with better access to grants upfront, when they need them.

Ontario’s universities, colleges, school boards and communities are already doing important work to address non-financial barriers for underrepresented groups, including Indigenous students, low-income students, students with disabilities and mature students, using early outreach programs. Building on this work, Ontario will engage with postsecondary institutions, education leaders, students, parents and researchers to evaluate existing pilot projects and practices. They will provide advice to government about best practices for early outreach to address the complex non-financial barriers to postsecondary education.

Currently, government support for students’ educational costs is largely provided through a combination of grants and loans through OSAP and tax credits through the Personal Income Tax system. To help more students qualify for grants and access the student loan system, the government will create a single major upfront grant — the Ontario Student Grant (OSG), starting in the 2017–18 school year. This will be done by redirecting 100 per cent of the funding from the 30% Off Ontario Tuition grant, Ontario Student Opportunity Grant, Ontario Access Grants and other grants offered by OSAP. These changes will ensure that financial support is transparent, timely and targeted to those students with the greatest financial need.

The government proposes to discontinue the tuition and education tax credits. This reform is in line with recommendations by stakeholders, including student groups. All of the additional revenue from eliminating these tax credits would be reinvested to support the new OSG or other postsecondary, education, training and youth jobs programs. The government will announce details of the new program later this year. See Chapter V, Section A: Tax Measures for more details.

Making Tuition More Affordable

Ontario’s student aid transformation will make average tuition free for students with financial need from families with incomes of $50,000 or lower, and will make tuition more affordable for middle-class families. Under the new Ontario Student Grant (OSG):

Through Budget Talks, one of the most popular topics was student financial assistance. The government is making the system more accessible and offering more support to those who need it most.

  • More than 50 per cent of students from  families with incomes of $83,0004 or less will have non-repayable grants in excess of average tuition;
  • No Ontario student will receive less than they are currently eligible for through the 30% Off Ontario Tuition grant; and
  • Students from families with incomes of less than $50,000 will have no provincial student debt.

In addition, the Province will:

Under the proposed new  Ontario Student Grant:

  • 90 per cent of dependent college students from families with incomes less than $50,000 would have total grants greater than an average college tuition.
  • 70 per cent of dependent university students from families with incomes less than $50,000 would have total grants greater than an average university tuition.
  • Expand financial support for mature and married students. Eligibility for grant support will no longer be tied to the number of years a student has been out of high school, and the Province is reducing the amount a student’s spouse is expected to contribute;
  • Raise the Ontario weekly assistance maximum levels for individuals, and married and sole-support parents; and
  • Increase access to interest-free and low-cost loans for middle- and upper-income families by reducing their expected parental contributions.

Most students will have less debt than they would under the current system, and the maximum OSAP debt level will be capped at $10,000 annually for higher-income families. Ontario will continue to offer financial assistance for students who have difficulties repaying their student loans.

The simpler, integrated, upfront grant will benefit all eligible students. Ontario families will be better able to plan their education. They will know the total amount of support they are eligible for when they apply and will be aware of the actual cost of their education well before the start of the school year. To help families better understand how grants reduce their costs, the government will work with the postsecondary sector to develop tools to more accurately calculate actual tuition costs, after deducting institutional and OSAP grants, and better communicate them to families. The government will also work with universities and colleges to implement net tuition billing by 2018–19.

As part of the changes to student financial assistance, Ontario will also reduce the threshold for expected parental contributions, providing increased financial support to middle- and upper-income families. Currently, Ontario has higher expected parental contributions than any other jurisdiction in Canada, which reduces the amount of assistance available to students. This change will better align Ontario and federal thresholds.

The OSAP transformation will make Ontario’s postsecondary system more accessible to low-income families, who are underrepresented due to the perceived high cost of tuition, and it will expand timely assistance to middle- and upper-income families to more closely align with their needs.

Strengthening the Postsecondary Education System

The government is taking a leadership role in putting student success and experience at the centre of the postsecondary education transformation agenda. This will ensure that Ontario’s colleges and universities continue to prepare students to take advantage of rapidly developing opportunities in the knowledge-driven economy and provide the best value for tuition paid.

In addition to funding access, Ontario will be focusing on quality outcomes in the university sector as it takes the next step in reforming the university funding model. Ontario is moving forward with the report from former Deputy Minister Sue Herbert, following six months of extensive consultations, which recommended that the university funding model focus on student success and outcomes. The government will work on the details of implementation with sector partners in the coming months, with the following key objectives:

  • Improve student outcomes;
  • Promote differentiation by linking funding to Strategic Mandate Agreements; and
  • Provide additional stability to institutions through enrolment planning and predictable funding.

The Province is focused on improving access and success for Indigenous learners. Ontario is providing stable funding of $97 million over the next three years to support key initiatives that will help more First Nation, Métis and Inuit learners access high-quality postsecondary and training opportunities. Of this investment, $5 million is to ensure that high-quality postsecondary education and training remain accessible to Indigenous learners through the Province’s nine Aboriginal Institutes. The government will be engaging this spring with Indigenous and postsecondary education partners to create a policy for Aboriginal Institutes and better define their place within the postsecondary education sector.

Next year is the 50th anniversary of Ontario’s Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology. Ontario’s colleges are globally recognized as leaders in technical and vocational training, with more than 3,000 programs in diverse areas including health care and business, biotechnology, engineering, aviation, animation and apprenticeship training. It is important that colleges remain strong and continue to serve the needs of their students and local communities. In the coming year, the Province will be launching consultations on options to modernize the college funding model to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of colleges, while also fostering positive outcomes for students.

To provide more flexibility and choice to students, the government is continuing to expand access to high-quality online learning opportunities for students through eCampus Ontario. The first phase of eCampusOntario.ca is providing students across the province with one-window access to more than 13,000 online courses and over 600 programs offered by Ontario colleges and universities. There are also more credit transfer opportunities and new tools available to help students navigate the postsecondary education system. Students now have access to 120,000 course equivalencies and about 1,300 pathways on ONtransfer.ca, an online database of courses that allows students to know how many credits they can expect to receive before transferring institutions.

The government is engaging with the postsecondary education sector and the broader community to develop a comprehensive postsecondary international education strategy that will seek a balanced approach for attracting international students and new partnerships, and promoting international experience opportunities for Ontario students.

Employment and Training Services

Building Ontario’s Integrated Employment and Training System

Ontario invests over $1 billion annually in employment, training and labour market programs and services through Employment Ontario, which serves more than one million Ontarians. The Province is continuing to modernize and transform employment and training programs and services. Progress includes:

  • Piloting Local Employment Planning Councils in eight communities (Durham, London–Middlesex–Oxford–Elgin, Ottawa, Peel–Halton, Peterborough, Thunder Bay, Timmins and Windsor), to bring together employers, governments, employment service providers, trainers and others to improve employment and training service planning and meet local labour needs;
  • Implementing the Canada–Ontario Job Grant, supporting more than 46,000 training opportunities for over 35,000 employees in Ontario as of January 31, 2016; and
  • Launching the new Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation, to provide leadership and support research and innovation in the employment and training system.

The government is also proceeding with implementation of the Labour Market Information Strategy to improve access to credible, high-quality labour market information that will help job seekers, students and their families make informed decisions about their education, training and careers. The Province is also working to improve the quality and scope of existing labour market information and expand its understanding of current and emerging labour market conditions.

Implementation of the Renewed Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy

Helping youth find employment and keep jobs is a key part of the government’s plan to invest in people’s talents and skills. In the 2015 Budget, the Province committed to renewing the Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy by investing an additional $250 million over two years to provide employment and skills development opportunities for up to 150,000 youth.

As part of the renewed Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy, the government launched Youth Job Connection in October 2015. The Province is investing more than $160 million over two years to provide intensive support and training to more than 27,000 young people with multiple barriers to employment. The program is being delivered through Employment Ontario and consists of two components:

  • Pre-employment training, job opportunities and mentorship to youth aged 15 to 29 who are not currently working, in school or enrolled in a training program; and
  • Summer, part-time and after-school job opportunities for high school students between the ages of 15 and 18 who are facing challenging life circumstances and who may need support between school and work. This component will be launched in spring 2016.

All youth, including students, can access Youth Job Link, starting in spring 2016. This program will help them access job search resources and information to assist in transitioning to the labour market, including summer employment opportunities.

Supporting Ontario’s Skilled Tradespeople

The government is committed to building a high-quality apprenticeship system that protects public and workplace safety and ensures skilled tradespeople are ready to meet labour market demands. In 2015–16, the government is investing approximately $176 million to offer a range of programs that support apprentices, employers and training delivery agents.

Ontario College of Trades

The government is strengthening the Ontario College of Trades, the industry-driven governing body responsible for promoting and modernizing skilled trades. The Province and the Ontario College of Trades have received a report from former Secretary of Cabinet Tony Dean. Ontario will bring forward proposed legislative changes and work closely with the College of Trades to implement Mr. Dean’s recommendations.

These recommendations would help improve the College’s processes and clarify its mandate by:

  • Supporting the existing trade boards to update and bring consistency to all trades’ scopes of practice;
  • Reviewing how trades are classified through the establishment of an independent and evidence-based process that will use risk of harm as a key criterion;
  • Establishing clearer and more concise criteria on how journeyperson-to-apprentice ratios are determined; and
  • Developing an enforcement and compliance committee and appeal process to resolve potential conflicts earlier, as well as ensure enforcement activities are consistently carried out with safety and the public interest in mind.
A Highly Skilled Workforce Strategy

To further improve Ontario’s world-class education and skills training system, the government established the Premier’s Highly Skilled Workforce Strategy Expert Panel in December 2015 to develop an integrated Highly Skilled Workforce Strategy.

A Skilled Labour Force Is Critically Important for the Province’s Business Climate

Availability of skilled labour is the number one site selection factor, cited as important by 95.1 per cent of company executives in a recent Area Development survey.

KPMG, “Competitive Alternatives,” (2014).

The panel will assess how well the workforce is positioned to meet the needs of Ontario’s economy and will recommend an integrated approach for the government to bridge education, training and skills development with the demands of an evolving economy. A final report is due to the government in fall 2016.

The strategy will be informed by industry, employers, students, youth, members of the primary, secondary and postsecondary education and training system, and other key stakeholders and experts.

Ontario’s 2016 Summit on Talent and Skills in the New Economy

To support the development of the strategy, on January 20, 2016, the government brought together thought leaders and decision-makers from across the education, training and employment spectrum at the second annual Ontario Talent and Skills Summit.

Delegates were asked to come up with “big” ideas for the development of a highly skilled workforce, provide their thoughts on breaking down barriers, and work together on creative, collaborative solutions for the Province.

Input from the summit, along with feedback from other stakeholders, will help shape the strategy.

1 “A Meta-Perspective on the Evaluation of Full-Day Kindergarten during the First Two Years of Implementation,” (October 2013). Report informed by the Social Program Evaluation Group – Queen’s University, “Final Report: Evaluation of the Implementation of the Ontario Full-Day Early Learning Kindergarten Program,” (Fall 2012); the Offord Centre for Child Studies – McMaster University, “The Full Day Kindergarten Early Learning Program Final Report,” (October 2012); and the Ontario Ministry of Education.

2 Avon Maitland District School Board, “Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship Training in High Gear,” (March 2015), http://yourschools.ca/beyond-the-classroom/innovation-creativity-and-entrepreneurship-training-in-high-gear/.

3 Canadian Occupational Projection System, “Job Openings 2013–2022,” Employment and Social Development Canada, http://occupations.esdc.gc.ca/sppc-cops/l.3bd.2t.1ilshtml@-eng.jsp?lid=22&fid=1&lang=en.

4 Statistics Canada: Canadian Income Survey, 2013. The figure is the Ontario median total economic family income before taxes and after government transfers.

Chart Descriptions

Chart 1.13: Highest Level of Education Achieved by Age — Ontario, 2015

This chart shows the highest level of educational attainment for different age groups. Education attainment categories are: below high school; high school diploma; postsecondary certificate/diploma; and university degree. The proportion of people with some type of postsecondary education is lower for older age groups. For those aged 25–34, a university degree is the most common type of educational attainment.

Return to Chart 1.13

Chart 1.14: Shared Goals for a Stronger Workforce

This chart shows the different initiatives Ontario is undertaking to provide equitable access to opportunities, support all learners for personal and professional success, and create good jobs and a strong competitive economy. These initiatives include:

  • Increasing access and affordability through modernized student financial assistance;
  • The Premier’s Highly Skilled Workforce Strategy Expert Panel; and
  • The development of a new funding formula to support student-focused universities and colleges.

Return to Chart 1.14

Chart 1.15: Postsecondary Participation Rates of 18- to 21-Year-Olds Living at Home, by Parental Income, 2013

This chart shows the proportion of families with at least one child in full-time postsecondary education, for families with at least one child 18 to 21 residing at home, comparing Ontario with the rest of Canada. For all family income levels, Ontario has a higher participation rate than the rest of Canada. Participation rates increase with income for both Ontario and the rest of Canada, ranging from 20% of Ontarians among households making $10,000 per year to more than 70% of Ontarians among households making more than $180,000 per year.

Return to Chart 1.15

Chart 1.16: Illustrative Scenario: OSAP Grants for Dependent College Students Living Away from Home

This chart shows OSAP grant values for students after the OSAP transformation and federal Liberal platform commitments are implemented, by family income. For family incomes under $90,000, the value of grants exceeds the average cost of tuition, and for family incomes below $50,000, the value of grants exceed tuition by a larger amount.

Return to Chart 1.16

Chart 1.17: Illustrative Scenario: OSAP Grants for Dependent Arts and Science University Students Living Away from Home

This chart shows OSAP grant values for students after the OSAP transformation and federal Liberal platform commitments are implemented, by family income. For family incomes under $80,000, the value of grants exceeds the average cost of tuition and for family incomes below $50,000, the value of grants exceed tuition by a larger amount.

Return to Chart 1.17

Chart 1.18: Illustrative Scenario: Lower Expected Parental Contributions

This chart shows the amount of money that parents are expected to contribute to their children’s education for family income levels from $70,000 to $110,000. It compares the expected contributions for Canada, Ontario now, and Ontario after the proposed OSAP transformation. Currently Ontario’s expected contributions far exceed Canada’s for family incomes $80,000 and up, but under the proposed reforms expected parental contributions will be much closer to Canada’s levels.

Return to Chart 1.18