On November 15, Vic Fedeli, Ontario’s Minister of Finance, introduced the Fall Economic Statement “A Plan for the People, Ontario’s Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review” in the legislature. Minister Fedeli highlighted the government’s achievements since taking office in June 2018, including a reduction in Ontario’s deficit by $500 million over a matter of weeks, the repeal of the Green Energy Act, the cancellation of Ontario’s cap-and-trade system, and the proposed minimum wage delay. The Fall Economic Statement then laid out the policy priorities for the coming months and laid the groundwork for Budget 2019, although with little details.
Below are highlights from the Fall Economic Statement:
Health Care Transformation
- The government is committed to taking a wholistic approach to ending hallway health care – this means improved access to integrated health care.
- The government has wound down the Self-Directed Personal Support Services Ontario agency to reduce the administrative burden of delivering home care. The Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) will continue to provide services under the Family-Managed Home Care program.
- In 2018-19, the government invested $90 million for 1,100 beds in hospitals in advance of the flu season. This is in addition to the $300 million to support 6,000 new long-term care beds across Ontario. This is the first phase of the government’s commitment to add 15,000 new long-term care beds over five years.
- Ontario has committed to investing $1.9 billion over 10 years on mental health and addictions services.
- The government is providing funding to increase Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) clinics across Ontario to give wider coverage to individuals with substance abuse issues.
- Beginning in March 2019, individuals under 25 who are not covered by a private insurance plan will continue to receive coverage for eligible prescription medications. However, those who are covered under private insurance will bill those plans, rather than the government.
- The government will be reviewing the Ontario Drug Benefit Program with the intention of creating an easier to understand, more consistent and sustainable drug system.
Increasing Choice in the Retail Distribution of Alcohol
- The government is moving to provide more choice and convenience for Ontario’s beer and wine consumers.
- Expanded hours for the Beer Stores, LCBOs, and eligible retailers will take effect, allowing the sale of alcohol from 9AM until 11PM, seven days a week.
- The government will begin consultations on the expansion of alcohol sales. Consumers, businesses and other stakeholders will be invited to comment on the rules for selling beer, wine, cider and spirits in Ontario.
Environment and Energy
- The government continued to assert their willingness to fight the federally imposed carbon tax and are introducing new transparency measures to do so. Ontario is pursuing measures to ensure the public is informed about the true cost of the federal carbon tax.
- In every way possible, Ontario will support the construction of pipelines and its partners looking to expand oil distribution.
- The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is planning to launch a formal agricultural advisory group that will hear from leaders across the agriculture and agri-food sector and discuss issues that impact the industry, such as trade.
Reducing Red Tape
- The government is developing its Open for Business Action Plan which will lower costs, reduce the regulatory burden, and make businesses more competitive. The Action Plan is setting a target of reducing regulatory red tape by 25 per cent by 2022.
- Ontario has called on the federal government to increase Canada’s competitiveness by encouraging initiatives such as the immediate expensing of depreciable assets.
Transit and Transportation
- The government remains committed to building an efficient transportation network and is completing its review of all capital projects. Details to come at a later stage.
- Ontario is developing a plan to upload the TTC to the Province.
- The government is seeking to amend the Metrolinx Act, 2006 to modernize and enhance the agency’s focus on regional transit delivery.
Labour Market Improvements for Business
- Reducing the regulatory burdens placed on businesses, apprentices and journeypersons.
- Closing the skills gap by establishing programs that encourage the people of Ontario to enter the skilled trades, get re-trained and become aware of the benefits of good paying jobs in the trades.
- Reviewing Ontario’s apprenticeship system and enacting reforms to increase access to apprenticeship opportunities.
- In the spring of 2019, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will launch a Housing Supply Action Plan to increase housing supply by addressing barriers that inhibit the development of ownership and rental housing. Public and stakeholder consultations will begin immediately.
- The government is reintroducing the rent control exemption that will apply to new rental units first occupied after today.
Supporting the North
- The government is committed to addressing the delays blocking the development of the Ring of Fire. Recent estimates suggest the value of mineral resources in the area to be more than $60 billion, meaning the Ring of Fire represents a significant opportunity to open up resources of the North and create good jobs in the region.
- Ontario will review the Far North Act, 2010 to ensure land use planning aligns with local, First Nations’ and Provincial priorities.
- On October 23, 2018 the Province pulled funding from three university campus expansions within the Greater Toronto Area. After further review of Ontario’s fiscal situation, the government will also be cancelling plans to proceed with a new French-language university.
- The government will be reducing the number of Legislative Officers from nine to six to eliminate “unnecessary cost while preserving critical functions.”
- Amendments will be put forward to set the threshold required to achieve “recognized party” status as winning ten per cent of the seats in the Legislative Assembly.
- The government is introducing legislation that would reduce the subsidy for vote allowances for registered political parties in 2021 and eliminate these allowances by 2022.
- The government will not be moving forward with the previous Liberal government’s proposal to adjust rates, brackets, surtax and credits for Ontario’s Personal Income Tax (PIT). This will prevent a PIT increase of about $200, on average, for approximately 1.8 million people.
H+K will continue to monitor any changes within the government.