By MPP Toby Barrett
Ontario’s recently-released budget for 2019-2020 is focused on what is important:
- the need to restore accountability, sustainability, and trust in government;
- the need to restore confidence in Ontario’s finances and reduce the debt burden;
- the need to protect the critical public services we hold most dear, including our world-class health care and education systems; and,
- the need to make Ontario the best place to do business, a place where jobs and prosperity can reach every corner of our province.
This year’s budget is a plan that continues us down the road to fiscal sustainability, while protecting what matters most. The budget plan will build on over 200 initiatives the provincial government has implemented over the past ten months.
From day one, putting more money in people’s pockets has been the top priority when creating policy.
One of the first orders of business was to cancel the job-killing cap-and-trade carbon tax. Scrapping the tax was providing an annual savings to each household of $260, and overall business savings of $880 million a year. All of that, of course, was reversed on April 1, when the federal government imposed their carbon tax on Ontario.
Ontario now has the most progressive income tax cuts for low-income workers in a generation – the Low-Income Individual and Families Tax Credit, or LIFT for short. In all, 1.1 million people in our province will benefit from this tax credit, and minimum wage earners in Ontario will pay no provincial personal income tax at all.
Government continues to clean up the hydro mess. We cancelled 758 wasteful and expensive energy projects, saving ratepayers $790 million on their hydro bills, and did away with the Green Energy Act to help further reduce hydro bills for families and businesses.
We are cutting red tape and reducing the burden for businesses so they can not only stay in Ontario, but can thrive.
As well, taxes are lower for Ontario employers who make capital investments in machinery and equipment, among other items, through accelerated capital cost allowance measures that parallel those of the federal government.
Our government will continue to strengthen the things that matter most to Ontario residents, like health care. We have already taken decisive steps to curb hallway health care and expand long-term care beds. Over the next five years, 15,000 new long-term care beds are coming online, and we are upgrading an additional 15,000 older long-term care beds to modern design standards.
Our Ministry of Health is building a public health care system centered around the patient and redirecting money to front-line services – where it belongs – to improve patient experience and provide better and connected care.
People are genuinely worried about Ontario’s growing mountain of debt – which amounts to something in the order of $24,000 per person. This is an unacceptable legacy to leave to future generations, to our children, grandchildren and their children.
Ontario’s debt needs to be paid back – it represents future taxation and future cuts to programs. Our approach to restoring balance to Ontario’s books will be measured and thoughtful. We will not balance the budget at the expense of critical programs.
Balancing the budget is therefore not an objective simply driven by ideology. It is the first crucial step to ensuring our hospitals, schools, and other critical services have the sustainable funding they need now and for years to come.
Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk