Posted on 7 November 2019
Ontario provincial government released its Fall Economic Statement yesterday with the overall emphasis on “a balanced and prudent plan to build Ontario together”. No surprises! The economic statement yet again reflects the government’s obsession with cutting down the fiscal deficit but the more fundamental question is – who is this commitment meant for and what is the price low and moderate income people paying for it?
The government claims that an additional $1.3 billion has been allocated to key priorities in 2019–20. However, it needs to be reminded that Ontario program spending has been the lowest in Canada; it spends about $2,000 less per person on provincial programs than the average of other provinces. This is despite the higher revenues collected by the province that the economic statement itself acknowledges.
While revoking some of the crucial fund cuts such as those for Ontario Autism Program and Transition Child Benefit, the government is still going ahead with some other important ones including reducing its share to the municipalities where they will now have to pay 20 per cent of the cost of creating new child-care spaces — which the province previously fully funded, starting 2020 or 2021. Further, it boasts itself of providing Ontario Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit which has benefited only the rich and not those who need it most!
Any financial commitment to enhance affordable housing was conspicuously missing from the entire Ontario Statement with the only mention of it being in relation to the much touted More Homes, More Choice: Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan. Quite contrary to what it proposes it will do, the action plan supports and protects developers and leaves people with no homes, no choice! Moreover, it is extremely restrictive in its proposal of implementing inclusionary zoning, an otherwise useful tool to provide affordable houses.
Worse still, the government reiterated its commitment to cancelling the cap-and-trade carbon tax which leaves around 1 billion committed to doing retrofits in buildings in limbo. This hugely impacts low and moderate income tenants already struggling with highly substandard housing conditions.