2016 Ontario Budget
What We Like, What We Knew, The Work Ahead
Overview of the Budget: Cap-and-trade, Infrastructure, Tuition
Ontario’s 2016 Budget featured three major initiatives: a cap-and-trade program that covers 82 percent of the province’s total greenhouse gas emissions, a new (increased) commitment of billions of dollars in infrastructure spending over the next ten years, and a new single upfront grant for post-secondary students called the Ontario Student Grant, which replaces a variety of grants and tax credit programs, making average tuition essentially free for students from families with less than $50,000 in household income.
The Budget confirmed the rollout of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan in 2018 (for both large and medium-sized workplaces). There was a small increase to social assistance, pilot projects both for a Basic Income (Guaranteed Annual Income) and for a portable housing benefit (rent supplement), and new investments in programs to end violence against Indigenous women and in hospice care.
Balancing the Budget
The Ontario Government plans to continue its program of spending restraint, holding average program spending growth to less than two percent until 2018-19. The Province continues to implement its Program Review process, which found $500 million in savings through back office efficiencies, asset sales, and similar initiatives this year. The Budget forecasts a 2015-16 deficit of $5.7 billion, down $2.8 billion from the 2015 Budget projection. Tax revenues are projected to grow 4.3 percent in 2016-17 from current levels: $30.3 billion from personal income taxes, $23.5 billion from sales tax, and $11.4 billion from corporations tax. Annual growth from 2014-15 to 2018-19 will average 1.8% in the health sector, 1.2% in education, 2.7% in children’s and social services sector, and 1.2% in the justice sector.
Impact on Our Sector
There were very few surprises in this year’s Budget, due in large part to the flood of announcements from the Ontario government in the past several weeks– including the new cap-and-trade program, an Anti-Racism Directorate, a strategy to end violence against Indigenous women, a Centre for Workforce Innovation, a Social Housing Retrofit fund, and updates to the ORPP, to name just a few. The Budget specifies many infrastructure opportunities where the nonprofit sector could advocate for community benefit agreements (CBAs). However, the onus will remain on our sector to invite ourselves to the table and create our own opportunities. There was also little detail, or new programs or investments announced related to many of the subsectors that make up our vibrant sector.
We’ve broken down our analysis into three key areas: what we like, what we knew, and the work ahead. Of particular concern overall is that the Budget does not reflect the increasing pressures for felt by those delivering services in communities, or even cost-of-living increases, in many program areas.