Ontario Budget

CBJ — Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa has tabled a budget at Queen’s Park that includes billions of dollars in new spending and a $6.7-billion deficit.

Premier Kathleen Wynne is abandoning a balanced-budget pledge to spend even more money ahead of June’s election. Opposition parties say it’s a last-ditch desperate attempt to hold onto power.

Many of the government’s policies – notably, a plan to provide free child care to preschoolers – were announced in the days leading up to the budget. But the document still included several new proposals, including a change to personal income tax brackets.

Despite Ontario’s strong economic standing the level of debt continues to skyrocket. The net debt-to-GDP ratio is projected to hit 37% by the end of this fiscal year. However, over the next three years it will likely continue to go up, hitting nearly 39% by fiscal 2020-21.

The government is proposing a new drug and dental program for those without extended health coverage. Starting next year it would cover up to 80% of prescription drug and dental expenses, to a maximum of $400 for a single person, $600 per couple and $700 for a family of four with two children. The program would cost taxpayers $800-million over three years.

The budget includes government forecasts on cannabis revenue. By 2021, the Ontario government expects to be making $215-million a year from sales through the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation and Ontario’s portion of federal taxes on cannabis.

The Toronto Region Board of Trade gave the budget a C- rating.

CBJ ranks it a D.