​March 26, 2024:  Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy tabled Ontario’s 2024 Budget. The economic reality in Ontario is uneasy. Leading economists and economic indicators point to sustained high interest rates, struggling small businesses, and lingering impact of the pandemic as contributing factors to the current situation.

Premier Doug Ford and his Cabinet continue to reiterate their commitment to keeping the cost of living increases to a minimum. Just yesterday the Premier announced he is extending the provincial gas and fuel tax rate cut until at least the end of 2024, which the Budget predicts will save households in Ontario $320 on average. These pocketbook measures, including eliminating license plate renewal fees and pledging to keep road tolls off almost all 400-series highways, speak to the affordability concerns of Ontarians that the Premier is addressing.

The 2024 Budget totals $214 billion and focuses on investments in critical areas without raising Ontarians’ taxes. The provincial deficit will rise to $9.8 billion, above the previous estimate of $5.3 billion. It is predicted to fall to $4.6 billion in 2025-26 and reach a surplus of $500 million by 2026-27.

The Budget features significant investments in housing, public services, and infrastructure, including but not limited to:

  • $190.2 billion through Ontario’s Plan to Build for major infrastructure projects including highways, hospitals, and schools
  • $1 billion for a new municipal program to facilitate housing construction
  • $6 billion for backpay for public-sector employees, including healthcare and education workers whose compensation was capped by Bill 124
  • $2 billion over three years to expand access to home care and increase compensation for personal support workers and nurses; and almost $1 billion more for hospitals in 2024-25.
  • An extra $546 million over three years to link 600,000 people with primary care teams
  • $46 million over 3-years for policing services in the Greater Toronto Area

Several reforms are also outlined, aiming to reduce the cost of living: auto insurance will be reformed to make many benefits optional, and the tuition freeze at Ontario’s publicly assisted colleges and universities will be extended for at least 3 more years.

The Budget has earned criticism by Leaders of the Ontario NDP and the Ontario Liberal Party. NDP MPP Marit Stiles criticized the Budget on the basis that it is “out of touch” and emphasized that this government is “out of ideas.” Leader of the Ontario Liberals Bonnie Crombie called it a “do-nothing budget [that]does nothing for Ontario families.” She shared concerns about rising debt and deficit, positioning her party as more financially prudent than the sitting government.

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