Promises Made, Promises Kept: Highlights from the Government's First Year in Office
It has been one year since the people of Ontario voted for change. Here are some highlights from the past 12 months:
Put More Money in Your Pocket
In October 2018, the Ontario government delivered on a promise to make life more affordable for families by passing The Cap and Trade Cancellation Act.
By eliminating the cap and trade carbon tax, Ontario reduced gas prices by about 4.3 cents per litre and saved the average family an estimated $260 per year. Cancelling the cap and trade carbon tax also removed a costly burden from Ontario businesses, allowing them to invest, grow and create jobs.
The government delivered on its promise to put more money in the pockets of taxpayers by scrapping the outdated Drive Clean, and freezing driver and vehicle fees.
Since April 1, 2019, Ontario drivers have no longer needed to get Drive Clean emissions tests for their light-duty passenger vehicles, making life easier for vehicle owners and saving taxpayers up to $40 million a year.
A new, enhanced program will focus on heavy duty diesel vehicles like commercial transport trucks, making sure Ontario continues to lead Canada in reducing harmful smog-causing pollutants.
Delivering on its promise to bring personal income tax relief to low-income workers and families, the government introduced the Low-Income Individuals and Families Tax (LIFT) Credit. Taking effect January 1, 2019, the LIFT Tax Credit provided low-income workers, including those making minimum wage, with up to $850 ($1,700 for couples) in tax relief.
Thanks to the LIFT Credit, the vast majority of low-income workers who earn $30,000 or less will pay no Ontario Personal Income tax.
As part of the 2019 Budget, Protecting What Matters Most, the government provided choice and savings in childcare with the introduction of the Ontario Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit.
The CARE tax credit provides about 300,000 families with up to 75 per cent of their eligible child care expenses. It will also allow families to access a broad range of child care options.
The CARE tax credit is in addition to the existing Child Care Expense Deduction (CCED) and focuses benefits on low- and middle-income families. Families could receive up to $6,000 per child under seven years old, up to $3,750 per child between the ages of seven and 16, and up to $8,250 per child with a severe disability.
Ontario is protecting what matters most and standing up for Ontario families and businesses by challenging the federal government's job-killing carbon tax in the courts.
Ontario's case challenging the constitutionality of the federal Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act was heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal from April 15 to 18, 2019. A decision is pending. Ontario argued that the provinces, not the federal government, are primarily responsible for regulating greenhouse gas emissions. They also argued that the charges the Act seeks to impose are unconstitutional and disguised taxation.
Ontario is helping students get the skills they need to succeed in the workforce by introducing an unprecedented 10 per cent reduction in college and university tuition fees for 2019-20 and restoring fiscal sustainability to OSAP.
With one in five new jobs in Ontario over the next five years expected to be in trades-related occupations, the province is also working towards modernizing the skilled trades and apprenticeships to grow the economy and create jobs.
Cleaned Up the Hydro Mess
In July 2018, the Premier kept his promise to the people and announced the retirement of the previous Hydro One CEO, the "six-million-dollar man," followed by the resignation and replacement of the Hydro One Board. Under the Hydro One Accountability Act, 2018, Hydro One is now required to annually publicly disclose executive compensation.
In May 2019, the legislature passed the Fixing the Hydro Mess Act, 2019, which will modernize the Ontario Energy Board to make the regulatory system more efficient and accountable, while continuing to protect consumers.
One of the government's first acts was to cancel more than 750 renewable energy contracts, saving families and businesses $790 million in future electricity system costs. With the former Green Energy Act, 2009 leading to rising electricity rates for families and businesses. The government passed legislation called the Green Energy Repeal Act, 2018 to give the province the authority to not issue approvals to energy projects with no clearly demonstrated need for the electricity that would be generated.
This legislation also gives municipalities the final say on where future energy projects are located in their communities.
Created the Environment for Good Jobs
More than 190,000 jobs have been created in Ontario since the government took office in June 2018.
Ontario's government took an important step towards creating jobs and making every day life easier by improving mobile broadband internet and curing cellular dead zones in the province. Ontario committed $71 million to the Eastern Ontario Regional Network's (EORN) project to virtually eliminate cellular coverage gaps in the region. The government also committed up to $63.7 million to Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) to address connectivity in Southwestern Ontario, the Niagara Region and the Town of Caledon.
These investments are part of a $315 million commitment the province made to ensure communities across Ontario have access to high-speed internet and better cell phone service.
The government is delivering on its commitment to support Ontario job creators and reduce business taxes earlier than promised by providing $3.8 billion in corporate income tax relief over six years. This will support business investment through the Ontario Job Creation Investment Incentive.
Introduced in Budget 2019, Protecting What Matters Most, the incentive also provides faster write-offs of capital investments, encouraging businesses to invest in Ontario and create jobs for the people of Ontario.
To cut red tape and outdated regulations that were hindering job creation, the legislature passed the Making Ontario Open for Business Act in November 2018, and the Restoring Ontario's Competitiveness Act in April 2019.
As part of its plan to get out of the way of job creators, the province set a target to reduce the number of regulatory requirements affecting businesses by 25 per cent by 2020. Once fully implemented, these changes are expected to save Ontario businesses over $400 million per year.
The government made life easier by making the largest investment in subways in Canadian history to help get families and commuters moving. This will ensure new subways lines are built quickly to get people to work faster, home sooner, and to family and friends quicker.
The province is also increasing GO service in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and providing free rides for kids on GO Transit.
Introducing free GO Transit rides for children makes travelling across the region more seamless, convenient and affordable for families to travel throughout the region.
In March 2019, the Ontario government announced it was putting people first by investing $1.3 billion to rebuild and restore highways across the province. This investment will help relieve congestion, improve road safety, and get people and goods moving.
Improving highways and bridges will keep Ontario highways reliable for workers, families and businesses across the province. A strong transportation network will attract investment, job creation and trade that will benefit everyone in Ontario.
The government is working to help people who are struggling to find housing they can afford. The government's housing supply action plan, called More Homes, More Choice, will help put affordable home ownership in reach of more Ontario families, create jobs in the construction industry, and provide more people with the opportunity to live closer to where they work.
The More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019 lays the groundwork needed to tackle Ontario's housing crisis by helping build more homes and rentals that meet the needs of people across the province.
The changes will eliminate unnecessary steps, duplication and barriers to creating the housing Ontarians need. While cutting red tape, the government is committed to maintaining protections for health and safety, the environment, the Greenbelt, agricultural lands and our rich natural heritage.
The government has developed a Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan that considers the province's specific priorities, challenges and opportunities — and commits to reducing emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. This target aligns with the federal government's Paris commitments, without imposing a carbon tax on the people and small businesses of Ontario.
Restored Accountability and Trust
In an unprecedented year of activity, including a rare summer sitting, the government took decisive action to address urgent issues by passing 20 bills. The government also fulfilled or took action on 50 out of 59 campaign promises in its first 12 months in office.
The government launched a line-by-line review of the previous government's mismanagement of Ontario's finances in September 2018. The province has already reduced the inherited $15 billion deficit from the previous government by $3.3 billion, to a projected $11.7 billion for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
To make life easier for people in Ontario, the government is taking a digital-first approach to delivering services. This includes enhancing ServiceOntario's top 10 transactions, such as issuing driver's licences, health cards and vehicle permits.
The government's digital-first plan includes the new Simpler, Faster, Better Services Act and amendments to several other pieces of legislation. This will shift approximately 10 million in-person transactions to digital channels, saving up to $33.5 million over the next five years.
In March 2019, the government unveiled a vision for putting students and parents first. This vision, Education that Works for You, was informed by the largest consultation on education in Ontario's history.
Students and parents in Ontario can look forward to the implementation of stronger math, STEM, and financial literacy curricula, improved skilled trades opportunities, and a provincewide ban on cellphones in the classroom.
The government's plan will modernize Ontario's classrooms and provide students with more learning opportunities to prepare them for success in post-secondary education, apprenticeship and training, and the workforce.
In March 2019, the legislature passed the Comprehensive Ontario Police Services (COPS) Act, 2019, a new legislation package that fixed the previous government's Bill 175, which treated police with suspicion while making it more difficult for them to do their jobs.
The COPS Act, 2019 streamlines the Special Investigations Unit investigation process, ensures more accountability, and enhances police oversight in Ontario by reducing delays in the investigation process.
The Act will ensure the police, the government and the people of Ontario remain partners in creating a more secure province by treating police fairly.
Cut Hospital Wait Times
The government is building a connected healthcare system to improve the patient and caregiver experience and strengthen local services. These changes will make it easier for patients to navigate the system by assisting healthcare providers to work together to take the guesswork out of transitions, where patients often feel lost and unsupported.
The government has also announced thousands of new long-term care beds, well on the way to the goal of creating 15,000 new long-term care beds over the next five years and upgrading 15,000 older long-term care beds.
In June 2018, the government appointed Dr. Rueben Devlin as Special Advisor and Chair of the Premier's Council on Improving Healthcare and Ending Hallway Medicine. Under the leadership of Dr. Devlin, the Council will recommend strategic priorities and actions to improve Ontario's health outcomes and patient satisfaction, while making Ontario's healthcare system more efficient. The Council released its first interim report in January 2019.
The province's mental healthcare system is disconnected, making it difficult for patients and families to get the care and services they need. To address this, the government is investing $3.8 billion over 10 years to develop and implement a comprehensive and connected mental health and addictions strategy.
The government is also providing an additional $174 million in funding to address the critical gaps in Ontario's system and to support patients and families living with mental health and addictions challenges. To ensure mental health and addiction service providers have stable, long-term funding, the government will be making this additional funding available every year.
Delivering on a key commitment, the government is protecting what matters most by providing low-income seniors access to quality dental care through a new publicly funded dental care program to begin in late summer 2019.
Senior citizens in Ontario deserve to be respected and live in dignity. Yet two-thirds of low-income seniors do not have access to dental insurance. Obstacles and finances can prohibit some seniors from being able to receive the dental care they need.
Through this program, Ontarians aged 65 and over with an income of $19,300 or less (or couples with a combined annual income of $32,300 or less), who do not have dental benefits, will qualify for the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program. These services will be accessed through public health units, community health centres and Aboriginal Health Access Centres across the province.