Ontario Budget 2015: Promises, Few good steps and a Mountain of Debt

The Ontario 2015 budget was presented last week and while a few new projects were announced, the highlight of the budget remained the high deficit which currently sits at $8.5 billion. While the projections have been made for a balanced budget by 2018, the government plans to achieve most of it through spending cuts. However the budget proposes increase in spending in some key areas like infrastructure and public transit.

Following are the key points of the 2015 provincial budget:

  • OSAP Reforms for Students: The students will not have to deduct the value of their car or the part time work income when they apply for the Student loan. Also the maximum OSAP cap will be indexed to inflation for the future. The government will also be allowing to apply for OSAP grants and loan separately. This means that students can apply for grants while still having a choice of not taking on the debt for their education
  • Winning with winter tires: The government will make it mandatory for the insurance companies to give a discount to the drivers that use winter tires. Also the insurance companies will not be allowed to increase the premium for minor accidents that do not cause any serious injury
  • In the works….: The new projects that were announced in the budget include building of 8 new schools (six elementary and 2 secondary) and a new mega court for the GTA merging the provincial court houses which will consolidate operations for Ontario court of Justice and Superior court of justice The government will also be spending $11.9 billion on infrastructure development which is part of the $130 billion spending plan over 10 years.
  • The Promises: A few measures were announced in the budget where the details were limited. The Ontario Pension Plan will be established in January 2017 but the details on how it will work are yet to be announced. Similarly a plan to build a high speed train between Toronto and Windsor was announced with no time line or commitment.
  • Caring for the Sharing economy: The government renewed its commitment to support and help business like UBER which promote the sharing economy by helping them comply with the regulations
  • Power to the Nurses: A major step was announced where the nurse practitioners would be able to refer patients to the specialists. This is great news for Northern Ontario and some rural areas where primary care is provided by nurse practitioners as opposed to general physicians.

The government will also continue with the wage freeze in the public sector. However it remains to be seen that how the government will achieve the $4 billion deficit reduction projected for this fiscal year. A $2.8 billion “other programs cut” has been announced with no details and some revenue will be generated by selling off assets.