Finance Minister Charles Sousa delivered Ontario’s first balanced budget since 2008, with a plan to increase infrastructure spending.
The fiscal plan entitled, “A Stronger, Healthier Ontario” details an ambitious strategy for social investment going forward. Proclaiming that “together we have built up Ontario to compete and succeed in the global economy …” the Finance Minister stated that “now we believe it is time to consider what comes next”. The key pillars of the budget are health care, education, supporting families and creating opportunities and infrastructure.
“Balancing this year’s budget is a much anticipated and significant achievement for Ontario”, said Barry Steinberg, Chief Executive Officer of Consulting Engineers of Ontario. “Planning core investments without the burden of a deficit should substantially improve the government’s ability to deliver on its commitments. This budget builds on the government’s commitments to the people of Ontario,” Steinberg remarked.
The proposed budget pledges to expand Ontario’s investments in infrastructure by $30 billion to $190 billion over 13 years, starting in 2014-15 and represents a $5.966 billion increase over last year.
Emphasis focuses on four key priorities: public transit ($56 billion); highways and transportation ($26 billion); grants to hospitals (approx. $20 billion); and, education (approx. $16 billion). Also central to infrastructure are continued commitments to municipalities through increased gas tax funding, the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund, Connecting Links program and the Trillium Trust.
“CEO has consistently been a strong supporter of separate, dedicated funds for infrastructure investment. They are the most effective tools for providing value to taxpayers”, said Steinberg. “The province’s continued commitment to ensure the full funding of the Trillium Trust is important. It is an imperative tool for eliminating Ontario’s core infrastructure deficit. However, the government needs to provide more detail on how the Trust works. I don’t think anyone in our industry really knows how it factors in to proper project planning, prioritization and execution.”
Today’s budget does not include any new taxes. The total government spend for the coming year is projected to be $141.1billion, including 11.6 billion in interest charges on the provincial net debt which now totals almost $302 billion, representing 37.8 per cent of GDP.