Mar 23, 2023

By Christine Ross

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The Ford government has unveiled a record budget of nearly $205-billion dollars. There’s more funding for health-care but little in the way of relief for consumers.

Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy says the spending plan shows it’s possible to balance the books while still investing in key areas like health-care.

“I’m please to report that in 2022 fiscal year, the deficit is projected to shrink to just $2.2-billion dollars, in ’23-24 we plan to further reduce the deficit to $1.3-billion dollars and starting next year, we will return Ontario to the black with a modest surplus of $200-million dollars.”

This year’s budget continues its large investments in infrastructure with more than $20-billion in highway, hospital and transit projects that includes boosts to home care and the health-care workforce.

The government is also addressing health-care staffing shortages by investing $200-million in supports to grow the workforce and is pouring an additional $425-million into mental health services over three years for the more than one-million Ontarians who annually experience a mental health or addiction challenge.

For seniors, the Conservatives plan to accelerate the $1-billion they’d promised over three-years for home care. Ontario will send out $569-million in the new fiscal year. And the government
also plans to expand the Guaranteed Annual Income System that helps low-income seniors.

The Zoomer advocacy group CARP says it’s a start but is restrictive.

“The GAINS payments to seniors are only available to the lowest income seniors in the province,” says CARP’s chief community officer Anthony Quinn. “So those are seniors who have virtually no income outside of old age security and GIS so for those who earn less than $2,000 a year, their monthly GAINS payments will double from a maximum of $83 up to a maximum of $166 dollars so good news for the lowest income seniors but when they call it a seniors program, it really is for a very small portion of Ontario’s seniors population.”

The province is also planning to adjust the benefit annually to rise with inflation.

There’s also an additional $1-million investment over three years to expand the Seniors Safety Line, a provincewide helpline dedicated to elder abuse.

Two months after allowing pharmacists to prescribe treatments for 13 common ailments, the budget is further expanding prescribing power for pharmacists.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles the budget makes it clear that the Ford Conservatives are putting their friends first and Ontarians last. “This budget is a failure of leadership, true leaders meet the moment and this one is out of touch.”

While the budget does not include money requested by the city of Toronto for its COVID-related shortfall, the Deputy Mayor says she’s committed to more discussions with the provincial and federal governments regarding that.

Jennifer McKelvie is pleased the government is investing more in supportive housing for vulnerable residents. She’s also happy to see the province eliminating the double transit fare to ensure transit riders can move seamlessly between the different transit systems across the GTA.

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