By: Laura Steiner
Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa presented his 2017 budget worth $141 billion. It’s considered the first balanced budget in 10 years. It commits to new spending in healthcare, education, and new opportunities for post-secondary graduates.
The centrepiece is a Pharmacare plan for those under 25. The plan will give kids, and adults under the age of 24 access to 4400 prescription drugs regardless of family income, or if they already have private insurance. The program is worth $465 million/ year. “This balanced budget is dedicated to providing young people with free prescription medications, providing free tuition, and helping businesses grow,” Sousa said. The government will fund a new abortion pill: Mifegymiso.
The budget sets $6 billion aside for education. The money to be spread over 3 years. $1.6 billion over 10 years will be used over 10 years to help build, and improve schools. Kindergarten classes will be capped at 30 in 2017-18, and 29 in 2018-2019. The government also kicks off the new Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) this year. Graduates will not have to repay grants until they are making $35,000, 10,000 more than the current $25,000.
Tobacco tax rates are going up to $10/carton over the next three years. The first hike begins Friday at midnight. Municipalities will have the right to bring in their own hotel tax.
The 2017 budget takes into account previously announced measures to reduce hydro prices by 25% starting this summer. It announced rent control measures, and a foreign buyers tax as part of its “Fair Housing Act”.
Brown disputes “Balanced Budget” claims
Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown disputes the Liberals’ claims of balancing the budget. Brown’s concerns that a lot of the spending is politically motivated. “This budget is a patchwork attempt by a desperate government to fix the mess they’ve created before the next election,” he said.
He argues that balancing is based on revenues gained from the sale of assets such as Hydro One. The Liberals say the money raised from the sale, are going to transit, and infrastructure projects. Brown alleges they are not.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is taking on the Liberal pharmacare plan. “All I can think of is that they made it up on the back of a napkin before they got to today, she said. The NDP introduced a pharmacare plan for everyone earlier this week. Her party’s version would only cover 125 medications.