In April of 2022, the provincial government in Ontario got back on track by releasing a spring budget after the previous two years were disrupted by the pandemic. In that budget they clearly identified that priorities moving forward would focus on restoring our healthcare system and stimulating economic growth. Eleven months later, the 2023 budget is very much focused on these same priorities.
Entitled “Building a Strong Ontario” this year’s budget includes record spending but also a surprisingly small deficit, and one that is significantly smaller than forecasted a year ago. While fiscal critics may denounce the $204.7B budget as anything but conservative, soaring inflation has led to an unexpected windfall in revenues resulting in a modest deficit of only $2.2B. That remains a large number, but it’s almost $18B lower than what was forecasted just one year ago.
In delivery of the budget, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy warned that prudence was needed in the face of inflation, increasing interest rates and global instability. Furthermore, he stated that it was important the government shore up their finances considering the uncertain financial times the world is facing.
Spending highlights in this budget include:
Healthcare & Social Issues
- $200M to recruit and retain more health-care staff
- $80M over three years to expand nursing education in universities and colleges
- $425M over three years towards mental health
- Increased prescribing power for pharmacists
- $200M per year towards homeless prevention
- $70B allocated to various transit systems and $28B allocated for new highways over the next 10 years
- Increasing benefits to seniors to offset inflation
- $1M towards the Seniors Safety Line
- $22B to build more schools and childcare spaces
- $5.4B for post-secondary institution enhancements
Residential School Searches
- $25M to support searches at sites across the province
- $6M over two years to assist junior mining companies expand exploration and development
The budget’s biggest priority for the coming year is Healthcare where 39.6% of the total $204B budget is allocated. Second is Education at 17% and Children & Social Services expenditures account for 9.5% of the budget. Despite the lower-than-expected deficit the province’s $300B plus accumulated debt is resulting in over $14B the government must pay towards debt servicing.
Not surprisingly, the opposition NDP and Liberal parties criticized the lack of spending on social programs, including money for the disabled and additional money for big cities including Toronto.
To read the full Liberal statement click here.
To read the full NDP statement click here.