Last week, the Ontario Finance Minister tabled his final Budget prior to the June 7th provincial election. The document will also serve as the Liberal Party’s election platform with many of the promised actions and associated spending not taking effect until 2019 and onward. The budget includes significant spending proposals with key focuses on healthcare, childcare and seniors as well as new funding for public transit, skills development and apprenticeship.
Of the increased spending there are some areas that will specifically assist Northern Ontario including the increase to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation to $150 million per year by 2021. NOHFC is a significant support for the local economy and business growth so this increase will be welcomed. The continuation of supports through the Forestry Growth Fund and the Northern Industrial Electricity Rate program are also positive for many regional businesses and the new funding for broadband expansion will be well received.
All this spending will result in an anticipated deficit of $6.7 billion in 2018-19 followed by deficits of $6.6 billion and $6.5 billion in each of the following years. To help pay for some of these new programs, the budget also proposes changes to the tax code that will result in nearly half a billion in new taxes on employers over the next three years. Instead of helping businesses manage costs and grow the economy through taxation reforms, this Government has chosen the opposite by increasing costs for Ontario’s job creators.
Furthermore, I am quite disappointed that the Premier has not made good on her promise to exempt Northern Ontario’s fly in communities from the 2014 increase to aviation fuel taxes. It is patently unfair for air passengers and cargo to First Nations communities to continue to pay these taxes to support transit expansion in the GTA.