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Ontario 2022 Budget Highlights: Investments in Rural Broadband, Transit, EV chargers, Health Care & Affordable Housing

Ontario 2022 Budget - TW

Yesterday, the Provincial government released its 2022 Budget. Please see below My Take, some budget highlights, and a news release from Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OBCM) caucus.

MY TAKE:

We welcome the investments in rural broadband, transit, electric vehicle chargers, health care and affordable housing via support for Skilled Trades workers and other measures.

We also applaud the government’s recognition that municipalities are key partners in the delivery of services to our residents.

However, we’re disappointed to see the wasteful expenditures on the 413 Highway, that City of Burlington and Halton Regional councils have both opposed via resolutions (City of Burlington Council Resolution on GTA West Corridor Hwy. 413 April 19, 2022). Also, additional dollars for the Ontario Land Tribunal throws good money at a bad process. The tribunal is undemocratic and slow, adding millions of dollars of costs and delays to housing delivery, going against the goals we are all trying to achieve. Regional Council has unanimously asked for reforms, and ultimately, elimination of this process that is the definition of ‘red tape’.

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ONTARIO 2022 BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS:

Ontario’s Plan to BuildNews Release, Budget

  • On April 28, Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy released the 2022 Budget. Ontario’s Plan to Build has five pillars:
    1. Rebuilding Ontario’s Economy
    2. Working for Workers
    3. Building Highways and Key Infrastructure
    4. Keeping Costs Down
    5. A Plan to Stay Open
  • ***The new budget projects a deficit of $19.9 billion for 2022-23.***
  • Rebuilding Ontario’s Economy is the first pillar of the government’s plan.
    • The government’s plan includes up to $1 billion for legacy infrastructure, such as all-season roads to the Ring of Fire, building the corridor to prosperity. The plan is also supported by a Critical Minerals Strategy and $2 million in 2022–23 and $3 million in 2023–24 to create a Critical Minerals Innovation Fund.
    • Working to bring jobs at provincial agencies to communities across Ontario to help spur economic growth. This begins with exploring the relocation of the headquarters of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) to London, working in close partnership with the agency and other partners, and identifying main street communities to headquarter new government agencies.
    • ***Investing nearly $107 million over the next three years to help the province compete with jurisdictions in a global race to develop and own critical technologies.***
    • ***Nearly $4 billion to support high-speed internet access to every community in Ontario by the end of 2025.***
  • Working for Workers is the second pillar of the government’s plan.
    • Increasing the general minimum wage to $15.50 per hour on October 1, 2022, while guaranteeing digital platform workers the general minimum wage and new, first-in-Canada protections.
    • Investing an additional $114.4 million over three years in its Skilled Trades Strategy to break the stigma associated with the skilled trades and simplify the system.
    • Providing $268.5 million over three years in additional funding through Employment Ontario to strengthen the government’s skills training and employment programs, including pandemic recovery initiatives.
  • Building Highways and Key Infrastructure is the third pillar in the government’s plan.
    • Investing $25.1 billion over the next 10 years to support the planning and construction of highway projects across the province, including:
      • Building Highway 413
      • Building the Bradford Bypass
      • The first steps to enable the future widening of Highway 401
      • Improving the QEW Garden City Skyway
    • ***Investing $61.6 billion over 10 years for public transit***, including:
      • Breaking ground on the Ontario Line
      • Advancing planning work for the Sheppard Subway Extension
      • Planning and design work for the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension to Toronto Pearson International Airport
      • The Bowmanville GO Rail Extension
      • Weekday GO Rail trips between London and Union Station in Toronto
      • Passenger rail service to Northeastern Ontario.
    • Investing about $14 billion in capital grants over the next 10 years to build and renew schools and child care spaces.
  • Keeping Costs Down is the fourth pillar in the government’s plan
    • ***Implementing a long-term plan to address the housing crisis, informed by the Housing Affordability Task Force’s recommendations. This includes supporting the creation of all types of housing by speeding up approvals to get more shovels in the ground faster, prioritizing Ontario homebuyers over foreign speculators, cracking down on unethical developers, and committing to introduce a housing supply action plan every year for the next four years.***
    • ***Making it less expensive to drive by eliminating and refunding licence plate renewal fees for passenger vehicles, light-duty trucks, motorcycles and mopeds, cutting the gas tax by 5.7 cents per litre for six months beginning July 1, 2022, and removing tolls on Highway 418 and 412.***
    • Proposing to provide an additional $300 in Personal Income Tax (PIT) relief, on average, to about 1.1 million taxpayers by enhancing the Low-income Individuals and Families Tax Credit.
    • Lowering child care fees for parents and securing a fair deal for Ontario by signing a $13.2 billion agreement with the federal government in an important step towards achieving an average of $10-a-day child care by September 2025.
  • A Plan to Stay Open is the fifth pillar in the government’s plan.
    • Expanding Ontario’s health care workforce
    • ***Building and improving hospitals by investing more than $40 billion over the next 10 years in hospital and health care infrastructure supporting more than 50 major hospital projects that would add 3,000 new beds over 10 years.***
    • Making historic investments in hospitals with an additional $3.3 billion in 2022–23, bringing the total additional investments in hospitals to $8.8 billion since 2018–19.
    • Making additional investments in home care by planning to invest up to an additional $1 billion over the next three years.
    • The government is also proposing a new, refundable Ontario Seniors Care at Home Tax Credit to help seniors aged 70 and older with eligible home care medical expenses to help people stay in their homes longer.

Municipal Highlights:

  • In General
    • ***The Ontario government is providing $91 million to help make electric vehicle (EV) chargers more accessible to the public across the province. The funding will add more EV chargers across Ontario, including highway rest stops and in community hubs like hockey arenas, carpool lots, and provincial and municipal parks.***
    • ***Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) play a critical role in the promotion of main street businesses in their respective communities. As part of the government’s ongoing commitment to reduce unnecessary red tape, Ontario will work together with its municipal partners and other stakeholders to explore changes to the Municipal Act, 2001 and City of Toronto Act, 2006 that could provide the BIA with greater access to grants and funding resources.***
    • ***Over the next year, Invest Ontario will engage municipalities, local, regional and federal agencies, the private sector, higher education as well as industry for a coordinated, all‐of‐Ontario approach to investment attraction Ontario is supporting municipal transit and shelters including matching, dollar‐for‐dollar, the recent federal commitment of $316.2 million, for total provincial and federal funding of $632 million. This is over and above investments that Ontario has made to support vital municipal public services well before this recent federal funding commitment.***
    • However, the amount of funding being made available by the federal government for Ontario, even when cost‐matched, may not be sufficient to address municipal transit pressures. This is why Ontario continues to call on the federal government to come back to the table and provide additional support that matches, dollar‐for‐dollar, Ontario’s total investments to date. Without a clear commitment from the federal government, municipalities may be forced to cut services and infrastructure projects, impacting thousands of jobs and families.
    • ***The government will ensure municipalities that receive funding through the provincial Gas Tax program would not be impacted by this temporary cut to the gas tax rate.***
    • The government is also making regional transit more integrated by proposing legislation that, if passed, would help to create seamless transit services across the Toronto municipal boundaries. This long‐time request of municipalities is an important step towards achieving a fully integrated and optimized transit network
  • Housing
    • ***The government is planning to introduce a new tool to help municipalities accelerate planning processes. The Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator would streamline approvals that regulate the use of land and the location, use, height, size and spacing of buildings and structures to permit certain types of development.***
    • Ontario needs more housing built, faster. Removing red tape and duplication is key to increasing  the supply of housing across the province. ***This is why Ontario is committed to working with the municipal sector on developing a data standard for planning and development applications to help reduce approval timelines.***
    • ***Creating the Development Approvals and Data Standard for the province is a critical step in facilitating the digitization of land approval processes, helping to reduce timelines and allowing for data to be collected consistently over time. This would make the housing development approvals process faster and less costly for government.***
    • To increase housing supply in Ontario, municipalities are exploring the use of vacant home taxes, which the government is prepared to facilitate.
    • Ontario will work with its municipal partners over the summer to establish a working group to facilitate the sharing of information and best practices, as well as to explore opportunities to enhance the existing legislative framework. Based on feedback from this working group, the government may also consider potential refinements to provisions in the Municipal Act, 2001.
    • ***The government will also work with municipalities to identify potential measures to discourage land speculation involving projects that are approved by the municipality but remain unbuilt by the developer.***

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OBCM NEWS RELEASE ON ONTARIO 2022 BUDGET:

Ontario’s Big City Mayors Respond to the Province’s 2022 Budget

April 29, 2022, GUELPH – Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OBCM) would like to thank Premier Doug Ford and Minister Bethlenfalvy for the 2022 Ontario Budget: Ontario’s Plan to Build.

During the budget consultation process, OBCM urged the government of Ontario to support the municipal sector in critical areas such as housing, covid-19 pandemic related operating pressures, climate change, and mental health and addictions.

“OBCM is pleased to see Ontario’s commitment to matching, dollar-for-dollar, $316.2 million in funding recently announced by the federal government. These are much needed dollars to address growing pandemic-related operational pressures in critical municipal services such as transit and shelters.  We would like to thank both governments for this support, another step towards recovery for our cities. Ontario’s Mayors look forward to continuing to partner with the province and federal government to manage remaining pressures.” — Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie, Chair of Ontario’s Big City Mayors

In his speech, Minister Bethlenfalvy spoke to the importance of Ontario’s recently announced Housing strategy that includes the release of the Housing Supply Action Plans. OBCM appreciates the opportunity to be part of the process as these plans are created, as the only way to solve the housing affordability crisis is through a collaborative approach with all partners at the table.

The announcement of $114.4 million over three years towards the Skilled Trades Strategy, along with measures to strengthen sills and training programs through Employment Ontario and a focus on attracting more skilled workers to Ontario through the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program will also help with housing affordability.  As municipalities see firsthand the impact of a labour shortage is impacting the building of new housing.

Affordability affects Ontarians in many ways, and we know that the proposed changes to enhance the Low‐income Individuals and Families Tax (LIFT) Credit will make a real difference to our residents, providing an estimated $320 million in additional Personal Income Tax relief per year to over 1 million Ontarians.

“Affordability is top of mine for Ontario residents. Initiatives such as changing the threshold of the LIFT credit to $50,000 for an individual and $82,500 for a family and increasing the minimum wage will make a positive difference for families in this province.” — Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie, Chair of Ontario’s Big City Mayors

OBCM’s Working Group on Climate Change recently discussed the importance of electric vehicles and electrifying our fleets.  We applaud the government for prioritizing the build of transportation electrification infrastructure with $91 million to help make electric vehicle (EV) chargers more accessible to the public across the province.  Many of these chargers will be hosted by municipalities in community hubs like hockey arenas and municipal parks, helping to encourage our residents to transition to electric vehicles.

Finally, OBCM would like to thank the government for their interest in looking for ways to review Ontario’s Business Improvement Areas (BIAs).  We look forward to carefully exploring what changes could mean.

About Ontario’s Big City Mayors

Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OBCM), formerly known as the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario, includes mayors of 29 single and lower-tier cities with a population of 100,000 or more, who collectively represent nearly 70 per cent of Ontario’s population. OBCM advocates for issues and policies important to Ontario’s largest cities.

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Media Specialist: John Bkila
john.bkila@burlington.ca
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