What a budget week! Just two days after the federal budget, the Ontario Government released its 2015 provincial budget, Building Ontario Up. Yet with very few surprises, the overall theme seems more like holding steady.
Jobs, infrastructure and meeting deficit targets
The Ontario Government laid out its four part-plan: investing in people’s talents and skills; building public infrastructure; creating a dynamic environment for business to thrive; and building a secure retirement savings plan.
While one of ONN’s four budget asks connects directly to this focus, with the pension plan, there are significant missed opportunities to leverage the sector’s scope, experience and economic power and really “unlock the value of provincial assets.” More analysis to come on how ONN’s recommendations can still be valuable tools to build Ontario up.
There was no mention of the nonprofit sector in the Minister’s budget speech. Positioning of this year’s Budget included the language, “protecting, preserving and enhancing the quality of life of people all across this province.”
Balancing the budget
The Ontario Government is projecting a deficit of $8.5 billion in 2015 – 2016, the lowest level since the start of the global recession ($4.8 billion forecast for 2016 – 2017; balance by 2017 – 2018).
Overall spending for ministries
There is a 5.5% reduction across the board with the exception of health and education, post-secondary education and training, children’s and social services and the justice sector (p. 281); an average rate of change from 2013-14 to 2017-18.
- The Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act has been made an “early priority” to make proclamation happen (pg. 111).
- The sector was mentioned as being part of sector-specific consultations for the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (pg. 140).
- There’s a mandate to move forward on Transfer Payment Administrative Modernization to implement a common registration process for all transfer payment recipients (p. 206). The government will bundle routine transactions and connect provincial programs to a single business number and develop a common registration process for all recipients. The goal is for “less time spent on administration and more time spent on delivering services to Ontarians.” This is closely tied to the joint funding reform process that ONN and its partners are working to advance with government.
It’s all about youth in terms of significant new funding:
- $250 million for the Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy (renewal) for programs and services that will include benefits for youth, including: at-risk youth, Aboriginal youth, newcomers and youth with disabilities.
- Renewed support for the Youth Action Plan with $21 million
Confirming good news we already knew
- Community Hubs (p. 185)
- Seniors Community Grant doubled to $2 million/year (p. 183)
- Increased Legal Aid eligibility (p. 183)
- Climate change: Cap-and-trade system for carbon pricing, by setting an overall emission limit on facilities included in the program (p. xxvi; 126)
- Extending Affordable Housing Program for five more years (p. 175)
- Continuing the Ontario Music Fund (p. 120)
- Renewed Poverty Reduction Strategy (p. 171)
- Community Homeless Prevention Initiative – Expert Advisory Panel established (timelines and strategy expected by 2016) (p. 175)
- Ontario Child Benefit inflationary increase
- Minimum wage second increase to $11.25 in October 2015
Some questions going round our heads
- Eligibility of nonprofits in new job training funding (p. 29 – 30)
- Social procurement opportunity: New framework will be created to select the next generation of infrastructure investments based on “economic, social and environmental returns.” (p. 57)
What we’re watching closely
Program Review (PRRT): The government announced that it had reduced program spending in certain areas by $250 million in 2014-15 as a result of program review initiatives and plans to increase this to $500 million per year in the next two years (TBC). The government also announced a new “Centre of Excellence for Evidence-Based Decision Making Support” (p. 209), to be housed with the Treasury Board, billed as a group to assess program performances and change services. More details are expected in 2015.
Pension Plan: Overall, ONN will continue to focus on ensuring the needs and voices of the sector are included as the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan is designed. We’ll also monitor the development of regulations for “Target Benefit Multi-Employer Pension Plans” (p. 152), as this could well have implications for our investigation of the feasibility of a sector-wide pension plan for nonprofits.
Red tape and funding reform: With energy going to to reducing red tape in the private sector and to quantifying the results (p. 111), we are eager to see how the provincial government will apply itself as energetically to the joint funding reform process with the nonprofit sector.
We’ll be sharing further analysis of the Budget and how the nonprofit sector can be a major player in making new initiatives happen, plus subsector analyses from across Ontario.
Analysis from the Sector
Association of Ontario Health Centres- Budget Overview
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives- Ontario Budget 2015: Kicks the can on fixing Ontario’s real problems
Canadian Mental Health Association: Mental health and addictions sector welcomes continued government commitment
Income Security Advocacy Centre- Not Much Assistance for Social Assistance
The Ontario Association of Non-Profit Homes and Services for Seniors- Provincial Budget Does Little to Close the Care Gap for Seniors in Long Term Care Homes
Ontario Campaign 2000- Ontario’s 2015 Budget
Ontario Community Support Association- How the 2015 Ontario Budget affects home and community care
Ontario Non-profit Housing Association- Two Governments, Two Budgets, Two Days
Social Planning Council of Cambridge and North Dumfries- 2015 Provincial Budget