Yesterday the Ontario government presented their budget for the upcoming year. Municipalities across the province paid close attention to this document. The province sends the city money to manage programs on their behalf such as public health, housing, and childcare. The province also commits money to valuable and necessary infrastructure. Recently we saw a confirmation of the $1.2 billion provincial funding for the LRT Stage 2. Going forward we need the province to continue to commit funding future projects such as LRT Stage 3 and other major infrastructure projects beneficial to all taxpayers.
One of my concerns in this budget is the expansion of the sale and consumption of alcohol in public places. This will require more monitoring by city bylaw and law enforcement, not to mention possibly leading to more drunk driving charges. We need to keep our streets safe, and I am not convinced this will meet our goals.
This budget has reduced spending to municipal affairs, housing, and the environment. A reduction in provincial funding of essential programs puts more pressure on our city to either raise property taxes or cut services. The city continues to be responsible for city services and relies on our provincial and federal partners for their ongoing support to meet the needs of our community.
Here are the main features of the Ontario budget that touch our lives here in the city of Ottawa.
Ontario Budget 2019 Highlights – Protecting What Matters Most
- Over the coming weeks, City officials will review the draft budget to determine its implications and how we can take advantage of new programs and services.
- The budget includes a number of reductions to ministry spending from 2018 actuals, including:
- $258 million reduction for Municipal Affairs and Housing
- $278 million reduction for Environment, Conservation and Parks
- $223 million reduction for Economic Development
- Creating a tailgating permit for eligible sporting events, and introducing legislation permitting municipalities to designate public areas, such as parks, for the consumption of alcohol.
- Extending hours of alcohol service at licensed establishments to a 9:00 am start, seven days per week.
- Changing advertising rules to allow for “happy hour,” and evaluating ways to reduce the cost of beer at the Royal Canadian Legion halls.
Gaming and Horse Racing
- Legalization of single event sports wagering.
- The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation will support the horseracing sector through a long‐term funding agreement and up to a 19‐year commitment providing up to $105 million per year to racetracks and horse people.
- Introducing a Community Housing Renewal Strategy to focus on supporting individuals and families who have difficulty finding stable affordable housing. This includes:
- Protecting and expanding affordable housing by creating incentives for community housing providers;
- Simplifying rent‐geared‐to‐income calculations;
- Streamlining and updating waitlist and eligibility rules; and
- The National Housing Strategy bilateral agreement between the federal government and the Province of Ontario will provide approximately $4 billion in federal and provincial funding for the Ontario housing sector over the next nine years.
- The Province will deliver a Housing Supply Action Plan and introduce legislation by spring 2019.
- Ontario will undertake a comprehensive review of the Province’s supportive housing programs.
- The Province will be conducting a review to explore opportunities to strengthen the governance and accountability of the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), including proposed changes to MPAC’s board structure.
- Ottawa Light Rail Transit Stage 2: Approximately $1.2 billion towards an expansion of the city’s O‐Train network by adding 44 kilometres of rail and 24 new stations.
- Providing the Ottawa Police Service with $2 million this year to support initiatives to combat gun‐ and gang‐related crime in its community.
- The Province is also investing $16.4 million over two years to create a province wide strategy to help combat gun‐ and gang‐related violence on all fronts throughout Ontario.
- The Province has proclaimed June 27 of each year as PTSD Awareness Day.
- Land ambulance dispatch centres: The government will streamline the way land ambulance dispatch services are delivered by integrating Ontario’s 59 emergency health services operators and 22 dispatch centres.
- The Province will not move forward with the previous government’s proposed changes to the municipal share of gas tax funding.
- The Province will continue to support municipalities through the existing Gas Tax program.
- The government will consult with municipalities to review the program parameters.
Environment and Pollution
- The government plans to launch Ontario’s first‐ever climate change impact assessment.
- The Province is creating a $400 million emissions reduction fund.
- The Province will modernize Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act.
- Actions will include developing a proposal to ban food waste from landfill and expanding green bin, or similar collection systems.
- To reduce plastic waste and limit microplastics that end up in lakes and rivers, the government will work with other provinces, territories and the federal government to develop a plastics strategy.
The government is looking to increase transparency through real‐time monitoring of sewage overflows from municipal wastewater systems into Ontario’s lakes and rivers.
It will work with municipalities to ensure that proper monitoring occurs and that the public is aware of the overflow incidents.
Relationship with municipalities
- The Province is committed to driving greater efficiencies and value for money regarding transfers, protecting services for the future. This commitment will also be required from all partners, including municipalities.
- Budget 2019 states, “Municipalities have said that the Province asks for too many reports, which in turn impacts their ability to focus on local priorities.” The Province is reviewing current reporting to ensure that only necessary information is collected and that the reporting respects the ability of smaller municipalities to respond.
- Keeping the minimum wage at $14 per hour. Future minimum wage increases will be based on inflation, starting in October 2020.
- The government is reviewing its current grant programs that support regional economic development.
- Ontario Works recipients will be able to keep up to $300 in earnings per month, an increase from $200 per month without it impacting their social assistance benefits.
- ODSP recipients will receive an annual exemption of $6,000 in earnings per year instead of the current $200 per month.
- Benefits will be reduced by 75 cents for each dollar earned above these amounts.
- The Province will integrate employment supports from social assistance with Employment Ontario.
- The government will transform employment services by:
- Selecting employment service system managers through a new, competitive process open to not‐for‐profit organizations, the private sector, as well as Consolidated Municipal Service Managers and District Social Services Administration Boards; and
- Ontario will commit up to $1.0 billion over the next five years to create up to 30,000 child care spaces in schools, including approximately 10,000 spaces in new schools.
- The Province proposes to introduce the Ontario Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses tax credit.
- Increasing the number of young children that independent child care operators can have in their care, from two children under two years old to three children under two years old.
- Lowering the age at which independent child care operators must count their own children towards the maximum allowable number of children in care, from six years of age to four years of age.
- Reducing the age requirement for children to access authorized after‐school recreation programs from six years of age to four years of age.
- Removing the restriction that a parent must receive financial assistance before licensed in‐home child care services can be provided for their child.
Public Health Care
- Ontario will invest in the Children’s Treatment Centre at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) campus in Ottawa to support children with developmental disabilities.
- The Province will provide funding to replace aging infrastructure at the Ottawa Hospital – Civic Campus.
- The Province will create Ontario Health Teams to organize care delivery according to the needs of local communities:
- Early adopters will be announced in summer 2019, and province-wide implementation is expected in 2020.
- The government will continue the process of consolidating six existing Provincial health agencies and the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) into a new, single agency (Ontario Health).
- The Province will establish 10 regional public health entities and 10 new regional boards of health with one common governance model by 2020–21.
Rural – Improving Broadband Service to Underserved Areas
- The Province plans to invest $315 million over the next five years in regional and shovel‐ready projects.