Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy has introduced a Tory blue budget — awash in red ink. Here are some highlights of the record $198.6-billion fiscal plan:
- Where your tax dollars are spent: The $198.6-billion spending plan is by far the largest in Ontario history — 25 per cent higher than former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne’s final $158.5-billion budget in 2018. Health care accounts for the lion’s share — $75.2 billion or almost 38 per cent. Education spending follows at $32.4 billion, or 16 per cent of the overall budget.
- Deficits are here to stay: The budget predicts deficits until 2024-25, outlining best- and worst-case scenarios over the next three years. In 2022-23, the budget documents indicate the deficit could range from $15 billion to $23.2 billion, depending on growth.
- A LIFT for low-income earners: As first disclosed by the Star, the low-income individuals and families tax credit (LIFT) has been expanded so more workers qualify. If re-elected, the Tories are promising to increase the $38,500 threshold so everyone making $50,000 a year or less would receive it. That would mean about 1.1 million people would get a tax break of around $300.
- Keeping seniors safe at home: The budget proposes a $1-billion increase in home-care spending over the next three years to help seniors remain at home, easing the strain on hospital facilities and long-term care homes. There’s also a tax credit for lower-income seniors that would rebate them up to $1,500 for private caregivers, hospital-style beds, walkers, canes, hearing aids, glasses or adult diapers.
- Time to take a staycation: With summer vacation on the way, a staycation tax credit will cover up to $200 of an individual’s $1,000 hotel, campsite or cottage rental bill and up to $400 for a family spending $2,000. The province estimates 1.85 million Ontarians will make use of the tax credit, at a cost of $270 million to the government.
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- A new provincial park is in the works for central Ontario that could have about 250 new campsites, including some for cars and those in the backcountry. Cabin accommodations may also be built on site. The park would offer year-round activities such as hiking, swimming, cross-country skiing and skating. Ontario currently has 340 provincial parks, and this would be the first new one in 40 years. Budget and exact location have not yet been determined. In 2019, Ontario’s parks recorded more than 10 million visits.
- The province is looking at allowing changes to the City of Toronto Act to allow the TTC to maintain and even operate transit systems outside of the city’s borders, to allow for better integration of regional transit.
Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy
Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1
Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie
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