Budget invests in healthcare, children and youth, cuts hydro rates, increases social assistance for Northerners, and improves Sault Ste. Marie’s transportation
Yesterday’s Ontario budget delivers increased investment in healthcare, children and youth, education and transportation while balancing the books and supporting Sault Ste. Marie, in addition to cutting hydro rates and increasing social assistance for Northerners.
Debbie Amaroso, former mayor and the soon-to-be Ontario Liberal Party candidate for Sault Ste. Marie, called the budget, “A thorough plan to support children and youth, while addressing many of the needs here in Sault Ste. Marie directly, including cuts to hydro rates and investments in local roads and buses. A budget like this reminds us why it’s so important we elect someone with the experience to continue to fight for our City down at Queen’s Park. For at least the next year, Ontario will have a majority Liberal government, and we need to ensure the Soo remains heard when important decisions are made.”
Specific measures in the budget include:
Children and Youth:
Highlights of the balanced budget include a programme of full pharmacare coverage for all Ontarians aged 24 and younger — the largest expansion of universal healthcare ever and the first of its kind in Canada. Over 210,000 students will also benefit from free average post-secondary tuition at colleges and universities, as well as a doubled tax credit on new home purchases for first-time homebuyers. Ontario will also create 100,000 new, affordable childcare spaces.
Ontario’s new Career Kick-Start Strategy will also provide nearly $190 million over three years to create 40,000 new work-related opportunities for students and recent graduates to give them the experience they need to help land a good job.
At Sault College, the province will help fund development of a new Institute for the Environment, Education and Entrepreneurship (iE3), allowing industries and academia to collaborate in areas of vital importance to the North, including information and communication technology and the management of forestry, water, wildlife and energy resources.
Ontario will expand the Northern Health Travel Program through a $10‐million enhancement that helps northern patients with costs associated with receiving care outside their communities. It will cover more than one night’s accommodation for people who are required to stay away from home for more than one night when travelling from the north for an OHIP‐insured service. This investment will ensure that the cost of travelling for northern Ontarians to receive the care they need doesn’t impede their ability to access needed health care services not available close to their home.
Sault Area Hospital CEO Rod Gagnon called the healthcare measures in the budget, “a good investment for patients and for taxpayers in the province. It would appear to be a well-thought out and reasonable budget when it comes to health care….prudent and good for the sector, also good for the patients.”
The province is providing $1.1 million for Sault Ste. Marie from the gas tax transfer for local transit and $2.3 million to Sault Ste. Marie for the resurfacing of two sections of Second Line.
“Ontario’s decision to provide more funding for transit through the gas tax program is a welcome one for Sault Ste. Marie. We know the importance of transit to our residents. This funding will help us reach our transit goals and assist in our efforts to build a more convenient system,” said Christian Provenzano, Mayor of Sault Ste. Marie.
Reducing the Cost of Hydro:
Ontario will cut hydro rates by 25% on average across the province, with up to 50% cuts for many Northern ratepayers. This is the largest cut to hydro rates in history. “We are pleased that electricity ratepayers will see the positive benefits of [Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan] in the near future and for the commitment that rates will not increase beyond the rate of inflation for the next four years,” said Alan Spacek, President of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities
Ontario is also investing $100 million in the new Natural Gas Grant Program. The program will support the building of infrastructure to expand access to natural gas to areas currently underserved, including rural, northern Ontario and First Nation communities.
Increasing Social Assistance for Northerners:
To help address the unique challenges in northern and remote communities, including the higher cost of food and transportation, the Province will also increase the Remote Communities Allowance by providing an additional $50 per month for the first person and $25 for each additional family member