June 13, 2024

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What you need to know about Ontario’s 2024 budget

5 min read

The Ontario government tabled a budget Tuesday that forecast a ballooning deficit, investments in the home and community care sector, and support for a first-of-its-kind medical school.

Here are the highlights:

Ballooning deficit

Ontario is projecting a deficit of $9.8 billion in the coming fiscal year, almost double what was projected in its fall economic update.

The deficit is projected to come down to $4.6 billion in 2025-2026 before the province posts a modest surplus the following year.

The $214.5-billion budget says high interest rates will continue to hurt Ontario’s economy, with real GDP growth expected to slow to 0.3 per cent in 2024.

The budget also cites higher public sector salaries, increased infrastructure spending and gas tax relief as reasons for the deficit figures.

Billions of dollars for home, community care

The budget pledges $2 billion over three years to the home and community care sector, which sees care provided at home or in a community setting by nurses, personal support workers and others.

The budget says the funding will increase compensation for personal support workers, nurses and other front-line care providers, and will “stabilize” expanded services.

Meanwhile, the budget’s base funding for health care is projected to go from $85 billion this coming fiscal year to $89.9 billion in 2026-2027.

York University medical school and nursing enrolment

The budget says the government will support a new York University medical school based in Vaughan, Ont. It says the medical school would be the first in Canada primarily focused on training family doctors.

The Ontario Medical Association estimates up to 2.3 million people are without a family doctor, with that number expected to nearly double over two years. Citing job postings, the OMA said in January there were more than 2,500 physicians needed in the province.

With major nursing shortages also hitting Ontario, the government says it will also invest an additional $128 million over three years to boost nursing student enrolment at universities and colleges.

The budget says the money will help support enrolment increases of 2,000 registered nurse seats and 1,000 registered practical nurse seats.

Money for sport, recreation and community facilities

The budget earmarks $200 million for a new application-based fund for new and revitalized sport, recreation and community facilities.

It says the investment over three years will help address the “critical need” for infrastructure support in sport and recreation sectors.

Parks and Recreation Ontario, a non-profit, estimated in its pre-budget consultation report that the province’s recreation infrastructure deficit nearly doubled since 2007 from $5 billion to $9.5 billion in 2021.

The consultation report says the infrastructure investment backlog for recreation facilities ranks only behind roads.

Police helicopters, auto theft

The budget says the Progressive Conservative government will support the purchase of four new police helicopters to help increase Greater Toronto Area patrols and response times.

The $46-million investment will be over three years.

A screenshot from video shows three people wearing hooded clothing and gloves attempting to steal a car from a driveway.
The province has earmarked $46 million to purchase four new helicopters that will be used by police services in the Greater Toronto Area to increase patrols and improve response times to major incidents. (Submitted by Patricia Li)

The budget also includes $49 million over three years to fight auto theft.

That investment will, in part, go toward the Ontario Provincial Police’s auto theft team and the province’s Major Auto Theft Prosecution Response team.

OPP Deputy Commissioner Marty Kearns said last week the number of recent car thefts in Ontario was unprecedented, with reports of nearly 3,000 vehicles reported stolen in the past seven weeks.

Auto insurance reforms

The budget says the government will move ahead with auto insurance reforms in a bid to create more affordable options, improve access and create a more modern system.

It says mandatory auto insurance accident benefit coverage will continue to apply to medical, rehabilitation and attendant care benefits, but all other benefits would become optional.

The budget cites the example of a driver who already has access to certain benefits through workplace plans, who would get to avoid paying for that benefit twice through their auto insurance policy.

But Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy concedes the government’s proposed reforms do not include a projection about decreased rates, saying the government is focused on choice and convenience.

The auditor general in late 2022 wrote that little progress had been made on auto insurance reforms promised by the Progressive Conservative government in its 2019 budget, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Housing starts to tick up, still below what’s needed

Housing starts are projected to rise over the next several years at faster levels than what was anticipated at the time of last year’s budget.

However, the numbers are still far below what’s needed to meet the government’s target of building 1.5 million homes by 2031.

A street of partially built homes under construction.
To support the province’s housing plans, the government is investing more than $1.8 billion in two funds that will help municipalities build ‘housing-enabling’ infrastructure, including roads, bridges as well as drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

Housing starts are projected to be up to just shy of 88,000 this year, ticking up to 94,400 in 2026.

The budget also says Ontario will let all single- and upper-tier municipalities impose vacant home taxes, which the government says will increase housing supply. Currently, Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton have the authority to impose such a tax.

Support for struggling autism program

The budget says the government will increase its investment in the Ontario Autism Program by $120 million in 2024-2025, double the previous year’s increase.

It says the funding will support the government’s commitment to enrol 20,000 children and youth in core clinical services.

Recent figures showed the number of children with autism receiving publicly funded, needs-based core therapy had only returned to the level it was at five years ago, before the Progressive Conservative government overhauled the system.

Documents obtained through a freedom-of-information request show that as of mid-July 2023 there were 8,758 children whose families had signed a funding agreement for core therapy services. The documents show enrolments were steadily rising and that likely continued after July, though at the time the government refused to provide current numbers.

Mobile clinics, response teams and addictions support

Three mobile mental health clinics for remote, rural and underserved communities are part of the budget’s mental health investments.

The budget cites $124 million over three years for the Addictions Recovery Fund, which includes support for three police-partnered mobile crisis teams and the maintenance of 383 addictions treatment beds for adults who need intensive support.

In all, the budget says the government is investing an additional $396 million over three years as part of its mental health and addictions strategy.

Advanced computing and AI

Ontario is putting an additional $18 million over the next three years into the province’s advanced research computing facilities.

The government says the money will help ensure the systems meet the storage and computational demands for research into technologies such as artificial intelligence.

The budget also earmarks $47.4 million for a refresh of supercomputers at the University of Toronto and at the University of Waterloo.

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