2017 Ontario Budget Analysis


2017 Ontario Budget

Budget deficit done, now it’s time to focus on the social deficit

The 2017 Ontario Budget was released on April 27 – the first balanced Budget since the 2008-09 downturn and a Budget with the 2018 election clearly in its sights. Budget 2017 includes fragments of how to address Ontarians’ immediate needs, but there doesn’t appear to be an overall vision to move the province to an inclusive economy. In the Budget, the government acknowledges the changing global economic and political environments that “have also disrupted the lives of some Ontarians.” What’s missing are the broader solutions to pressing challenges people are facing, such as rising inequality, economic disruption and a sense of disaffection from our public institutions.

The nonprofit sector’s role in the economy is essential to Ontario’s future economic health, yet we don’t see roles for the sector reflected in the 2017 Budget. As ONN pored over the Budget, there were few mentions related to the sector’s 55,000 nonprofits and charities that serve Ontario’s communities.

Money to keep pace with increased costs for people and communities?

As we noted in our pre-budget submission, there needs to be cost-of-living increases embedded in funding agreements for ongoing programs delivered by community nonprofits. While some programs have seen increases, others have been flat-lined for a decade or more. We’ll be looking for these details in the more specific Budget tables (by Ministry) coming in May.

Commitments that reflect ONN’s sector-wide priorities (from our pre-budget submission)

– Community benefit framework to be created.
– Ontario Trillium Foundation’s reinstatement of $25 million to their total budget.
– Community hubs – a new resource network and implementation of community hub recommendations from the recent action plan.
– Potential access to provincial surplus lands at below-market value for community hubs and housing.

Encouraging developments

Overall, Budget 2017 focused on on children and families and initiatives to include people who are being marginalized. These include:
– Anti-racism strategy.
– Investment in newcomer support.
– New funding for development services.
– Significant reinvestment into healthcare.
– New supports for Indigenous youth and adults.
– Focus on children and youth wellbeing, including universal pharmacare, mental health and addictions services, and child welfare reform.

Collaboration across sectors

In a time of changing workplaces, a changing economy, disruptive technologies, and barriers to entering the workforce, we see an underinvestment in new initiatives, and some missed opportunities for collaboration across sectors. That said, the Budget highlights areas where nonprofits can work together with government, including community hubs, land assets, and a provincial community benefits framework. We’ll be on the lookout for more details.

The Ontario government will need to address the relationship between work and income, and our sector will be following closely the roll out of the Basic Income Pilot program, Income Security reform, changing asset limits for welfare, job and training opportunities through community benefits, along with the upcoming report for the Changing Workplaces Review.

Reactions to the Budget

Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC)
Ontario government makes new commitment to strengthening interprofessional primary care

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Ontario
Ontario budget is balanced, but province still in a fiscal straightjacket

Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario (CMHA Ontario)
CMHA Ontario remains hopeful of more funding for mental health and addictions

Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO)
Ontario Budget 2017: Wynne budget ignores children’s mental health crisis

Behind the Numbers of a Newly-Balanced Budget

Environmental Defence
Statement From Environmental Defence’s Programs Director, Keith Brooks, On Ontario’s 2017 Budget

The Fraser Institute
Ontario budget—more spending, more debt

Income Security Advocacy Centre
Ontario Budget 2017: ISAC response and analysis

Ontario Campaign 2000
Ontario balances its budget with positive policy changes 

Ontario Chamber of Commerce
Back to Balance but not Prudence: Ontario Chamber of Commerce

Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care
Child care can’t wait: Ontario budget makes a start on child care expansion but leaves major policy planks for another day

Ontario Municipal Social Services Association (OMSSA)
OMSSA’s 2017 Provincial Budget Report

Ontario Non-profit Housing Association
A missed opportunity for non-profit housing: ONPHA’s response to the 2017 Ontario Budget

Ottawa Food Bank
Initial reaction to the Ontario Government’s 2017 Budget

Pembina Institute
Ontario’s budget moves the province towards a low carbon future

Toronto Region Board of Trade
2017 Provincial Budget Report Card

Budget highlights affecting nonprofits and charities

Arts and Culture

While the Budget provided no information on new investments in arts and culture, an April 27 letter from the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport to culture sector stakeholders announced that the Ontario Arts Council will receive a $20 million increase over four years, good news for the arts community following the 5% increase ($2.6 million) to Council programs in 2015-16 to support growing demand.


Child welfare: $134 million over four years for system transformation initiatives.
Child care: Support 24,000 quality licensed child care spaces this year, of which 16,000 will be subsidized. According to the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, the Budget does not specify the capital investment that will accompany this year’s 24,000 spaces.

Code for Canada

Inspired by CivicTechTO, the Ontario Government has launched Code for Canada – a new nonprofit to tackle civic technology and design challenges in local communities.

Community Benefits Framework

The Ontario government has acknowledged the opportunity for infrastructure investments to create a range of social and economic benefits. The province will consult on the creation of a Community Benefits framework, “guided by the principle that public procurement can create community benefits that go beyond simple infrastructure.” This is exactly the kind of framework that ONN and our partners in Community Benefits Ontario proposed in our Community Benefits Policy Framework.

Community Hubs

Along with affordable housing, surplus provincial lands will be made available at below-market cost for community hubs. The province will host a Community Hubs Summit in May, where it will launch a new resource network and other ways to implement community hub recommendations from the 2015 report of the Premier’s Advisor. While there are no new operating funds or any proposed streamlining of funding agreements for multi-service providers, the province re-emphasized its commitment to coordinating health and social services, as well as school spaces, to better serve communities.

Developmental Services

There will be an investment of $677 million over four years to adults with developmental disabilities for increased access to services, support home, clinical support and access to local community services.

Employment and Training

Overhaul of employment and training funding: Employment Ontario will be working with its partners to modernize the $1 billion invested annually in employment and training programs this year in response to “the changing economy.” At the same time, the province noted that it will have spent $69 million less than anticipated on the sector because of “lower-than-forecasted demand” for programs.

Food Security

Meals on Wheels: $18 million in new funding for community programs, such as Meals on Wheels programs and transportation support.
Supermarket Recovery Program: The three most popular ideas submitted to the Ministry of Finance in its “Budget Talks” were announced and “up to” $2.6 million will be available to implement them. One idea was a one-time investment of $600,000 in 2017-18 to provide grants to food banks and food rescue organizations that will help fund capacity improvements for transportation and storage of perishable and prepared foods. The Ontario Association of Food Bank will be monitoring this initiative.

Health Care, Home Care, and Long-term Care Investments

The Budget provides $7 billion over three years in total for health care, mostly for hospitals, but also including $145 million (over 3 years) for interprofessional primary care (welcomed by the Association of Ontario Health Centres).

OHIP+ Pharmacare for children and youth: There will be universal drug coverage for all children and youth up to 24 years old. The program will cover the cost of all 4,400 medicines funded through the Ontario Drug Benefit Program, with no deductible and no co-payment. This is a first among Canadian provinces. The measure is not costed in the Budget, but officials provided a figure of $465 million/year. This measure could reduce the cost of extended health care premiums for nonprofit employers that cover drug costs for their employees and dependents.
Home and community care: The Province is providing $250 million for home nursing and other personal support services, including $100 million for dementia strategy which includes dementia care, home and community staff training, and money dedicated to community support and a three-year $85 million commitment to expand home care. A Personal Support Worker registry will be launched. New funding is provided for a newly-consolidated non-refundable Ontario Caregiver Tax Credit.
Mental health: Increased investment of $140 million over three years for mental health and addictions supports.
Long-Term Care Homes: $58 million (2% increase) investment in long-term care for residents and a food allowance increase of 6% ($15 million). These increases were welcomed by AdvantAge Ontario (formerly the Ontario Association of Non-Profit Homes & Services for Seniors).

Housing and Homelessness

– As the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association notes, “the overall provincial investment is lower than many expected in social housing.”
– The Province will offer surplus lands below market value for a mix of “up to” 2000 units of market-rate and affordable housing. The program will be piloted in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, with a commitment of $70-100 million to develop new housing units.
– $30 million over three years in the Survivors of Domestic Violence Portable Housing Benefit Pilot and $90 million for Community Homelessness Prevention Initiatives over three years.
– The government reiterated commitments from its 2016 Updated Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy.
– The Budget paves the way to allow for municipal governments to apply a hotel tax to short-term rental housing. Critics have noted that short-term rentals are reducing the supply of longer-tenure rental housing in some areas.
– Other elements of the Ontario government’s housing plan will be passed in separate legislation.

Income Security

Social assistance rates: Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program rates will increase by 2% (beginning in the fall). There will also be increases limits on cash and other liquid assets for individuals on social assistance, and an increase to income exemptions for cash gifts from friends and family.
Income security reform: The Budget reiterated the province’s commitment to pilot-test a basic income in Hamilton, Thunder Bay and Lindsay. The province will release the report of the Income Security Reform Working Group by end of 2017 to provide a multi-year roadmap to support people in participating in the economy and their communities and access services.

Ontario Trillium Foundation – $115 million total budget reinstated

The news is not in the Budget, but was confirmed by Ministry of Finance staff. It was one of ONN’s pre-budget asks to reverse the 21.7% reduction in base funding from the 2016- 2017 Budget that was reallocated to Ontario150 programs.


Nonprofit employers with pensions/retirement plans should note that draft regulations affecting defined-contribution plans will be released this spring, and another set for defined-benefit plans this fall. ONN eagerly awaits the new regulatory framework for target-benefit multi-employer pension plans, now expected this spring. Our pensions task force recommended last month that a proposed sector-wide plan should be a target benefit plan.


Seniors Centres: $8 million over the next three year to create 40 new Elder Persons Centres, community centres for social and recreational programs for senior wellness.
Seniors Community Grant Program: $11 million to support seniors to engage socially, volunteer and new learning.

Social Infrastructure Fund

$640 million from 2016-17 to 2018-19 to support the repair and modernization of community infrastructure, including Affordable Housing for Ontario Program, new construction and renovation of affordable housing for seniors, renovating social housing units and renovating women’s shelters.

Support for Newcomers

Ontario Bridge Training program: $21 million over three years to serve newcomers for licensing or certification and connect them to the labour market.
Multicultural Community Capacity Grant: $3 million in each of the next two years to create grant to help immigrants, refugees and ethno-cultural communities fully participate in Ontario society. Funding will target activities for community engagement, social integration, education and empowerment.

Women’s Economic Empowerment Strategy

The government will release a strategy to help women reach their full economic potential. It will be hosting stakeholder group meetings this summer.

Youth Hubs

– The government is developing and evaluating a network of up to nine youth hubs for walk-in mental health and addiction services and other health, social and employment supports.
Collective Impact pilot project to serve at-risk youth: Five pilot communities will be chosen to work across sectors and improve education and labour market opportunities for young people not employed or in education or training. “The government in working with a group of senior leaders from the public, private, philanthropic and not-for-profit sectors to facilitate and support communities to better align services and support for at-risk youth.”

Key policy areas the Budget did not address

Changing Workplaces Review & the “Sharing” Economy

The province’s Changing Workplaces Review will attempt to bring Ontario’s employment standards and labour relations legislation up-to-date in the context of a rapidly changing economy. An interim report was released in July 2016 and employers and workers eagerly await the final report to be released any time, with legislation expected this fall.

Upcoming public consultations noted – stay tuned for details

– Women’s economic empowerment – a key mandate letter commitment for multiple ministers. ONN will be working to ensure that barriers to economic empowerment facing women in the nonprofit sector are taken into account.

– A community benefits framework to ensure Ontario’s infrastructure investments generate the greatest possible social, economic and environmental value for the communities where they are located. See our recent blog post on this opportunity.

– Consultations on rules affecting workplace pension plans. ONN will monitor and keep the sector informed.

What we didn’t see

– An enabling environment for nonprofit social enterprise.
– Social procurement – we eagerly await the outcome of the fall 2016 consultation on government procurement.
– A commitment to accelerating Transfer Payment Administrative Modernization.
– A provincial labour market information strategy – a mandate letter commitment.
– Environmental protection beyond what we already knew about the cap-and-trade program; there are no conservation or anti-pollution initiatives (such as reducing provincial fossil fuel subsidies).

Email us!

What does your organization think of the 2017 Budget?

Share your thoughts with us and the sector.