Today, Finance Minister Charles Sousa presented the 2015 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review. The Province is now forecasting revised deficits of $7.5 billion in 2015-16 and $4.5 billion in 2016-17. This is an improvement of $1 billion in 2015-16 and $0.3 billion in 2016-17 compared with the deficit targets laid out in the 2015 Budget. The government remains committed to balancing the budget by 2017-18.
At a time of fundamental economic change, Ontario is supporting business by capitalizing on its diversified economy. The Province has already made significant progress on its plan to grow the economy, create jobs and promote a fair society in a balanced and fiscally responsible manner. Going forward, the Province will implement its plan to help more businesses succeed and grow, and provide opportunities for all Ontarians.
Ontario’s economy continues to grow in an increasingly competitive global environment. Since the 2009 recessionary low, the Province has created 559,600 jobs, the majority of which are full-time positions and in industries that paid above-average wages. The provincial unemployment rate of 6.8 per cent is below the national average. Ontario has become one of the strongest growing provincial economies in Canada, and private-sector economists expect this growth trend to continue over the next two years.
The Review outlines the government’s progress to date and its plans to help the province thrive financially while maintaining vital public services for Ontarians.
Supporting a Dynamic and Innovative Business Climate
The government is helping Ontario businesses grow and succeed so they can create rewarding, high-paying jobs and contribute to the province’s economic prosperity. Recent progress includes:
Proposing to remove the Debt Retirement Charge (DRC) from all non-residential electricity bills on April 1, 2018, nine months earlier than previously estimated. This will provide certainty on the end date of the DRC for non-residential electricity users, lowering costs for commercial, industrial and other users. As previously announced, the DRC will be removed from residential bills as of January 1, 2016.
Launching a new Business Growth Initiative that will focus on supporting the scale-up of small firms, promoting an innovation-based economy and modernizing regulations for business.
Proposing a down payment of $325 million in 2015-16 through a Green Investment Fund that will be targeted at reducing greenhouse gas emissions while strengthening the economy. Through this initial investment, the Fund will support energy retrofits in homes (including affordable housing), energy efficiency investments in small and medium-sized businesses and industry, support for Aboriginal communities, and new investments in electric vehicle infrastructure.
Supporting the sharing economy to harness the opportunities it presents while protecting Ontario consumers and workers. This is an emerging sector that has immense potential to foster economic growth and innovation.
Establishing a steering committee, co-chaired by Minister Sousa and the Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, Tracy MacCharles, to improve representation of women on boards and in senior executive positions.
< strong>Eliminating restrictions to allow pension plans to further invest in businesses.
Building Modern Transportation and Infrastructure
Ontario has committed to making the largest investment in public infrastructure in its history. This investment, with more than $134 billion over 10 years in priorities such as roads, bridges and public transit, will support more than 110,000 jobs on average per year. Since the 2015 Budget, the government has announced support for more than 200 projects that will keep people and goods moving, connect communities and improve quality of life. Recent progress includes:
Funding up to $1 billion for the Hamilton Light Rail Transit (LRT) project. The Province will cover the capital costs of building the LRT, contributing to the extensive revitalization underway in Hamilton.
Investing $5.3 billion in capital costs for the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT in Toronto. The line is expected to be in service by September 2021 and will provide service that is up to 60 per cent faster than bus service today.
Continuing work on the Confederation Line, Ottawa’s12.5 kilometre LRT project. Major sections of this line are expected to be ready by the summer of 2017.
Widening Highway 7 in Kitchener from Fischer Hallman Road to Courtland Avenue.
Continuing the expansion of Highway 69 between Sudbury and Parry Sound. In 2015, an additional nine kilometres of four- lane highway between Highway 64 and the Murdock River opened and 11 more kilometres are now under construction.
Investing $25 million over three years to improve routes for cyclists all across the province, including $15 million for routes that provide key connections and linkages on provincial highways.
Working Together Towards a Stronger Ontario and a Stronger Canada
Ontarians are ready for a new collaborative approach to federalism in Canada that is driven by a set of common goals and values. The Province looks forward to working together with the federal government on a number of initiatives including implementing the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, combating climate change, building infrastructure, sustaining health care, collaborating with our Aboriginal partners and supporting international relief efforts to help welcome and resettle refugees in the province.
The government’s economic plan is building Ontario up. The four-part plan includes investing in people’s talents and skills, making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario’s history, creating a dynamic and innovative environment where business thrives and strengthening retirement security for Ontarians.