10 things you need to know about the Ontario budget

10 things you need to know about the Ontario budget

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Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy has introduced Ontario’s post-pandemic spending plan, which includes new money for health and education, as well as some targeted help for low-income seniors and students. Here are the highlights:

  • It’s big: At $204.7 billion, it’s by far the largest in the province’s history — almost 30 per cent more than the Liberals’ final $158.5-billion spending plan five years ago.
  • For poorer seniors, the Guaranteed Annual Income System payments — $166 a month for individuals and $332 for couples — are being expanded so an additional 100,000 people will qualify in July 2024. Currently, 200,000 receive the benefit, which will also be indexed to inflation. The province is also pledging $1 million over three years for the Seniors Safety Line, a dedicated elder abuse hotline.
  • For post-secondary students, the province is spending an extra $80 million over three years for additional nursing program spots, and adding 154 postgraduate medical training seats — to benefit Ontarians who trained here and abroad — and 100 additional seats for undergraduate medical students, primarily for Ontario students. It is also starting a new veterinary medicine program, pledging $14.7 million over two years, adding 80 vets particularly in the livestock/agri-food sector.
  • Temporary pandemic paid sick leave, which provided three days off during the COVID-19 health emergency, is expiring on schedule on March 31.
  • While the province is still finalizing the location for a new provincial park — the first in 40 years — it also plans to create a new “protected area” in the 905, in Uxbridge.
  • The Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program will receive $25 million more over three years to speed up the application process for immigrants with skilled trades so they can start working.
  • More than $25 million will be spent identifying and protecting residential school burial sites, as well as providing mental health help for Indigenous communities.
  • To address pandemic learning losses, the province will spend $25 million over two years for reading supports for the youngest students, using a “consistent set” of assessments, twice a year. For math, $12.6 million over two years will help fund more math coaches, among other resources.
  • More than $48 billion has been set aside for hospital capital spending, in part helping more than 50 projects to add 3,000 beds. In education, $15 billion over the next decade to repair and refurbish schools, plus $2 billion over the next 10 years for colleges, universities and Indigenous institutes. The current capital backlog for Ontario elementary and secondary schools is estimated at almost $17 billion.

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

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