2016 Ontario Budget Update

 

Today the government released its 2016 budget, titled Jobs for Today and Tomorrow. AMCTO is happy to see the government take action on the sharing economy and infrastructure, two of the priorities identified in our pre-budget submission. Over the coming days AMCTO will be conducting a thorough review of the budget, but here are a few of the most relevant highlights for AMCTO members.

Fiscal Outlook: According to the budget, the Ministry of Finance’s forecasts of growth in Ontario real GDP are 2.5 per cent in 2015, and 2.2 per cent in 2016. Accordingly, the government maintains its assertion that Ontario’s economic growth is outpacing national growth, and will continue to be one of the strongest economies in Canada over the next two years.  The budget also maintains the government’s pledge that the budget will be balanced by 2017-18.

Infrastructure: The budget maintains the government’s emphasis on investments in infrastructure, including:

  • Increasing public infrastructure investments to more than $137 billion over the next ten years—a $3 billion increase from the 2015 Economic Update
  • An increase in the annual Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund disbursements to $300 million per year by 2018-19
  • Providing $272 million through the Small Communities Fund to support projects in municipalities with fewer than 100,000 people
  • Increasing Connecting Links funding by $5 million per year in 2016-17, to $20 million

Sharing Economy: The budget commits the government to adapting Ontario’s economy to accommodate the sharing economy.  Specifically, the government will:

  • Ensure that the province’s auto insurance system offers appropriate services for the sharing economy
  • Consulting with industry and communities in the Spring of 2016 on “new and innovative choices for intercity passenger travel”
  • Piloting a previously-announced pilot program with Airbnb to educate Ontarians who use home-sharing about their consumer rights and responsibilities, and raise awareness of tax obligations

The government’s sharing economy policy is motivated by four key principles:

  • Promoting a level playing field and tax fairness
  • Fostering innovation and supporting new business
  • Ensuring a coordinated government approach is taken
  • Protecting workers, consumers and communities

Housing: 

  • Investing $178 million over three years to provide housing subsidies and benefits to additional households, including the construction of up to 1,500 new supportive housing units, including:
  • $45 million over three years to enhance the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI)
  • $2.4 million in 2016-17 to pilot a new portable housing benefit that would offer more options for those fleeing domestic violence (this is estimated to impact approximately 500 households)
  • Legislative and regulatory changes to increase the supply and sustainability of affordable housing
  • A new requirement for enumeration at the local level to gather data about homelessness

Social Assistance:

  • An increase in social assistance rates by 1.5 per cent for adults receiving Ontario Works and peoples with disabilities who rely on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
  • Increasing rates for singles without children who receive Ontario Works of $25 per month

Property Taxes:

The budget provided updates on a number of property tax programs:

  • Making a technical adjustment to the provincially prescribed property tax rate calculation
  • Continuing to consult with municipalities on the Business Property Tax Capping Program
  • Releasing results of the Vacant Unit Rebate and Vacant/Excess Land Subclass review
  • Further consultations in northern communities on Provincial Land Tax (PLT) reform
  • Implementing an advance disclosure process—which will enable affected businesses and municipalities to contribute to the determination of assessed values before the assessment roll is finalized
  • Increasing the length of tenure for MPAC board members (from 2 to 3 terms)
  • Extending the Power Dam Special Payment Program for 2016 (municipalities will receive the same payment they received in 2015)

Community Hubs: 

  • Extending the mandate of the Special Advisor and Advisory Group on Community through 2016-17

Cap and Trade: The provinces cap and trade program will set a cap on emissions for each year of the first compliance period, which will start in 2017 and last through 2020. Carbon emitters in sectors covered under the program would be required to hold a sufficient number of allowances to cover their annual emissions.

Refugee Resettlement: 

  • Committing additional funding of $2 million in 2016-17 for refugee resettlement

Public Service Modernization: 

  • Enhancing access to public services through digital government, open government, and service modernization
  • Modernizing Service Ontario to develop a new online option for health card renewals, and align how Ontarians change their address for their health cards and driver’s licences

Regulatory Reform: Renewing the governments efforts to further improve the province’s competitive business environment by introducing new tools that will help reduce unclear, outdated or unnecessarily costly regulatory requirements on businesses. Specifically, moving forward with new initiatives designed to reduce and improve regulations:

  • A online Red Tape Challenge competition
  • A Regulatory Modernization Committee to act as an advisory body
  • A new Centre of Excellence in best practices for regulatory quality, simplicity, and alternatives

Find the full 2016 Ontario Budget here.

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