A Balanced Plan to Build Ontario Up for Everyone
The Speech from the Throne outlines the Ontario government's balanced plan to grow Ontario's economy and create jobs. The government is committed to delivering real benefits and more inclusive growth that will help more people in their everyday lives.
The government's four-part plan includes helping more people get and create the jobs of the future by making a high-quality college and university education more affordable. The plan is making the largest infrastructure investment in hospitals, schools, roads, bridges and transit in Ontario's history and is building a low-carbon economy driven by innovative, high-growth, export-oriented businesses. The plan is also helping working Ontarians achieve a more secure retirement.
The government's plan is working:
- Over the last two years, Ontario's economy has grown by 6.1 per cent
- Last year, growth was double the national average
- In the first quarter of this year, Ontario's growth was faster than that of the United States and the G7
- Almost 600,000 jobs have been created since the depths of the last recession
A Balanced Budget
By choosing to invest in economic growth and responsibly controlling government spending, the government will balance the budget, next year, in 2017-18.
Ontario's debt-to-GDP ratio is leveling and will start to decline -- a sign of economic strength and fiscal responsibility. This will give businesses further confidence that the province's economic plan is working, and that Ontario is a good place to invest and create jobs.
Eliminating Ontario's budget deficit on schedule shows that with a fair and balanced plan, Ontario can continue to build the things that matter most to people: child care, education, health care, modern infrastructure, retirement security and shared opportunities in a growing economy.
Building Ontario Up to Help People in Their Everyday Lives
Keeping Clean, Reliable Electricity Affordable and Lowering People's Bills
Over the course of the past decade, Ontario's electricity customers have helped remove dirty coal-fired generation from the province's electricity system and have built a clean and reliable system.
As the province has built new, cleaner generating capacity and made critical infrastructure upgrades to ensure system reliability, customers' bills have increased. While the province has taken a number of steps to reduce costs associated with the electricity system, consumers continue to face electricity cost increases.
The government has heard the concerns from people and businesses about electricity costs. It will therefore act on an idea it has heard from many individuals and groups.
Today's Throne Speech announced that, to provide relief on electricity bills, the government will introduce legislation that would rebate -- directly on consumers' residential electricity bills -- an amount equal to the provincial portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax, an eight per cent savings. The rebate would take effect on January 1, 2017. Small businesses would also receive the rebate.
It is anticipated that this measure would result in savings of about $130 a year for the typical Ontario household.
Additionally, recognizing the unique and special circumstances associated with the cost of electricity for rural ratepayers, the government would significantly enhance the existing rural support program to provide even more on-bill savings. Eligible rural customers would receive these additional savings, which would result in an on-bill monthly saving of about 20 per cent -- approximately $45 a month.
Since 2011, the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI) has encouraged large electricity users to take on-site steps to shift consumption away from peak periods and lower their electricity costs by up to one third.
To ensure Ontario's commercial and industrial consumers also benefit from lower electricity costs, the government intends to implement new measures to lower the threshold for participation in the ICI and expand eligibility for the ICI beyond existing customer types. At the same time, conservation programs delivered by Local Distribution Companies, supported by the Independent Electricity System Operator, will continue to provide significant programs tailored to meet specific business classes and needs. When fully implemented, over 1,000 more industrial customers could find cost savings up to 34 per cent, depending on their ability to reduce peak electricity consumption.
Affordable, Accessible, Quality Child Care for More Families
Every child deserves the best possible start in life.
Over the past three years, the government has helped to create 56,000 new licensed child care spaces and it is working to add 4,000 new child care spaces in schools.
Ontario recently banned fees for child care wait lists to improve the accessibility of child care and make life easier for families.
The government is investing $269 million over three years to support a wage increase for registered early childhood educators and other child care professionals in licensed care settings.
Creating a new cabinet portfolio for the early years and child care reaffirms the government's commitment to our children.
Today's Throne Speech announced that, to meet the demands of our growing and changing province, within the next five years, starting in 2017, the government will help to create another 100,000 licensed spaces for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, so that more working families can find quality, affordable care.
Building an Education System for All Students to Achieve their Full Potential
Every person in Ontario deserves an excellent education, from kindergarten through to postsecondary.
Ontario already has one of the best public education systems in the world. More students -- 85.5 per cent -- are graduating from high school than ever before.
Across the province, the government has invested more than $15 billion in school infrastructure, including nearly 760 new schools and more than 735 additions and renovations.
The government is concerned about the recent decline in math scores and has introduced new math supports to help students acquire the numeracy skills they need. The renewed math strategy includes having up to three math lead teachers in all elementary schools.
The government will also build opportunities for learning by experience by funding more placements. The government will work to implement the recommendation of the Highly Skilled Workforce Panel that every student will benefit from at least one experiential learning opportunity before graduating from high school, and another before finishing college or university.
The government believes postsecondary education should be available to everyone who qualifies, regardless of family income. That's why it is making postsecondary more affordable and accessible by introducing the Ontario Student Grant (OSG). The OSG will help thousands of students access postsecondary education and have lower levels of student debt upon graduation.
For students from lower-income and many middle-income families, it would make the tuition portion of the average postsecondary experience absolutely free.
It is estimated that approximately 150,000 students will benefit from the OSG when it is implemented in 2017.
The government has also invested $3.8 billion in capital funding for Ontario colleges and universities, building new campuses and modernizing old labs to ensure students get the best possible education.
Skills Training for the Job Market of Today and Tomorrow
People who want to upgrade their skills should be able to get support from their employer and from the government.
To build a modern workforce, the government is investing in skills training that aligns with the knowledge-focused jobs of today and tomorrow.
In 2015, Ontario renewed the Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy by investing an additional $250 million over two years, bringing the total investment in youth employment programming to more than $565 million. The extension of the strategy provides employment and skills development opportunities for up to 150,000 youth.
In addition, Ontario invests more than $1 billion annually in Employment Ontario, which serves approximately one million people, including employers, workers, apprentices, newcomers and youth.
Workers and employers will also benefit from new skills training projects developed by industry, unions, educators and government, guided by the recommendations of the Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel. These projects will:
- Build stronger partnerships between educators and employers
- Increase access to job market information
- Expand opportunities to learn by experience
- Promote both traditional and non-traditional career paths
- Invest in human capital, and
- Close gaps in skills and competencies
Building a Health Care System Everyone Can Rely On
Every person in Ontario deserves high-quality public health care.
The government has built up Ontario's health care system by ensuring more than 94 per cent of Ontarians now have a primary health care provider, such as a family doctor or nurse practitioner. It will deliver on its primary care guarantee -- connecting a family doctor or nurse practitioner to everyone who wants one.
Today 170,000 more seniors can benefit from a program that reduces their out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs, and 30,000 more seniors will qualify for this program every year.
The government is also helping families by adding an estimated 350,000 hours of nursing care and 1.3 million hours of personal support, enhancing home care for those who need it.
Since 2013, seven new hospitals have been built in five communities. Over the next five years, 18 more hospitals across Ontario will complete major renovations or rebuilds, and approximately 20 more major projects will get underway.
The government remains committed to growing the number of front-line health care professionals who provide high-quality patient care in Ontario. It has therefore taken a firm stance that any new health care dollars must go to services in the community that provide care to the most people, and not only to higher salaries for administrators or specialists who are already receiving fair compensation for their services.
The province will continue to work with Ontario's doctors to reach an agreement that honours this shared commitment to put patients first. Ontario's doctors will continue to be among the most highly paid in Canada. And Personal Support Workers are receiving the raises the government committed to, and that they deserve, for their role in caring for millions of people's loved ones.
Building More Infrastructure than Ever Before in Ontario's History
Ontario is making the largest infrastructure investment in hospitals, schools, roads, bridges and transit in the province's history -- approximately $160 billion over 12 years.
New and upgraded transportation infrastructure helps people in their everyday lives by reducing road congestion and time spent in traffic or in transit. People and goods get around faster and productivity goes up.
Over the next five years, about 5,000 kilometres of highways will be built or repaved, and more than 750 bridges will be built, repaired or rebuilt.
In urban areas, the government will build up transit infrastructure by investing in more than 350 kilometres of new rapid transit over the next decade.
The government will also work with First Nations and other partners to move forward with greater access to the Ring of Fire and remote First Nations communities.
Good Jobs in a Competitive, Innovative and Low-Carbon Business Environment
Growing the economy and creating good jobs is the government's number-one priority.
It will continue to build a competitive business environment, driven increasingly by innovative, low-carbon industries.
People will benefit from the investment and jobs that come to Ontario through international trade missions led by the Premier and ministers. Ontario businesses signed 209 agreements over the past three Premier's international missions, generating close to $2.92 billion that will create up to 2,050 jobs.
The government is committing $400 million over the next five years through the Business Growth Initiative to leverage the province's highly skilled workforce to compete through innovation. The Business Growth Initiative will focus on helping small- and medium-sized businesses grow and expand to compete in international markets, accelerate the province's transition to an innovation-driven economy, and remove regulatory barriers to growth.
The Jobs and Prosperity Fund will continue to build up Ontario's key sectors. Since 2014, the fund has leveraged $8.1 billion in total investment and helped to create and retain more than 37,200 jobs.
Ontario's automotive sector employs tens of thousands of highly skilled workers and these workers will have the opportunity to help invent the vehicles of the future. Ontario is the first province to allow on-road testing of automated vehicles, which will help foster the development and commercialization of new technologies that have the potential to help improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The province is also building almost 500 electric vehicle charging stations at more than 250 convenient locations across Ontario.
Ontario is a leader in the fight against climate change. Eliminating coal-fired electricity is the single-largest climate change action taken in North America.
Ontario met its 2014 emission target, which was six per cent below 1990 levels. To reach its 2020 targets and continue to build innovation and growth in the economy, Ontario will launch a cap and trade program in January 2017.
Eventually, the program intends to link up with Québec and California in the largest carbon market in North America. Ontario recently signed a joint declaration with Québec and Mexico, committing to work together to fight climate change and drive progress on carbon markets as Mexico pilots a cap and trade system.
Cap and trade lets markets decide where emissions can be cut for the lowest cost and it also rewards innovation, the key driver of 21st century growth and prosperity.
Cap and trade proceeds will be transparently invested in greenhouse gas reduction projects and incentives that benefit Ontario households and businesses.
The government has committed that on average industry would not see any change in electricity costs as a result of cap and trade.
Retiring with Security and Dignity
Everyone deserves to look forward to the future with confidence, knowing they can retire with security and dignity.
Ontario has been fighting for a solution to the coming crisis in retirement security. It took a national leadership role on this issue and worked to achieve consensus, which led to an agreement by Canada's finance ministers to enhance the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).
The government will continue to work with its federal and provincial partners to ensure the CPP delivers better retirement security, benefiting millions of Ontarians.
In addition to introducing legislation to provide relief on electricity bills, the government will move forward this session with other legislative priorities.
This week, the government intends to reintroduce election finance reform legislation, with all the amendments agreed to at the committee stage prior to the prorogation of the legislature. It also intends to move amendments during the committee stage of the bill to prohibit MPPs in all parties from attending fundraising events.
It will also reintroduce, this fall, all other government bills that were before the legislature prior to prorogation, so that debate on them can continue.
New legislation the government intends to introduce includes measures to strengthen Ontario's health care and education systems, ensure parental recognition and regulate home inspectors.