(Toronto) The Ontario government plans to start posting budget surpluses a year from now, relying heavily on booming revenues to offset rising health care spending — including for hospitals, home care and medical personnel.
Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy on Thursday tabled a budget of nearly $205 billion in spending — proof he said the province can spend responsibly.
In the fiscal year beginning next month, Ontario expects to run a deficit of $1.3 billion, before posting a slight surplus of $200 million in 2024-25 and then $4.4 billion the following year .
Finance officials say the surge in surpluses is partly due to rising revenues — Ontario expects to end this year with about $200 billion in revenue, more than $20 billion more than it does. had forecast at the same time last year — thanks to higher than expected levels of inflation and an economic recovery.
But in times of high inflation, this budget doesn’t put much more money in consumers’ pockets, aside from bolstering a program for low-income seniors.
The government is thus expanding access to the Guaranteed Annual Income Plan. The government plans to introduce new criteria that would see around 100,000 more older people eligible for the scheme from July 2024. The benefit will also be indexed to inflation.
Minister Bethlenfalvy stressed that his government did not wait for the budget to put in place measures such as a lower gas tax, a tax credit for low-income people and an increase in support benefits to people with disabilities.
New Democrat Leader Marit Stiles said Ontarians are struggling to cope with rising food, rent and gas prices, and this budget is not providing support.
In terms of spending, the government of Doug Ford is continuing its heavy infrastructure projects, with more than 20 billion for highways, hospitals and public transport.
On health care, as Ontario grapples with pandemic-related backlogs and worker shortages, government is increasing hospital funding by 4% and spending more than half a billion dollars on home care this past next exercise.
The government had promised in the last budget to inject $1 billion over three years into the sector; it announces in this budget that it is accelerating this funding, with 569 million in 2023-2024.
Ontario is also committing an additional $425 million over three years to mental health and addictions services. The budget also provides $200 million to address immediate labor shortages in the health sector, including a program that allows students to work in hospitals to gain experience, as well as an experience program. supervised practice for internationally educated nurses.
The government is adding 51 million over three years to a program dedicated to “offload nurses”, to free up paramedics.
Ontario is also spending $80 million over three years to increase enrollment in post-secondary nursing programs. In addition, the province is adding 154 postgraduate medical training seats and 100 undergraduate medical student seats.
The budget also reveals that Ontario will spend $72 million over the coming year to expand some publicly funded medical procedures performed in private clinics.
Ontario’s real GDP is expected to grow by only 0.2% in 2023, although this rate is expected to accelerate in subsequent years. Net debt is expected to cross the $400 billion threshold for the first time in the coming year.