queensparkOntario’s path back into the black won’t include slashing and burning as the Liberal government believes it can eliminate its $10.9-billion deficit with a scalpel rather than a hatchet, a penny a beer bottle the only new tax they’ll introduce.

The $131.9-billion budget introduced Thursday by Finance Minister Charles Sousa pledges to balance the books through a combination of targeted savings and a dependence on a steady economic growth.

Here are the highlights of the Ontario budget introduced by Finance Minister Charles Sousa on Thursday:

  • Ontario’s deficit will be reduced from $10.9 billion to $8.5 billion in 2015-16, falling to $4.8 billion in 2016-17 and return to balance by 2017-18.
  • The $131.9-billion budget includes $120.5 billion in program spending plus $11.4 billion in interest on the province’s debt, which is projected to hit $298.9 billion next year.
  • $11.9 billion in 2015-16 for infrastructure projects such as highway improvements in northern Ontario and rapid transit, part of a $130-billion, 10-year plan announced in last year’s budget.
  • An additional $200 million for a 10-year jobs fund announced last year, with a total of $2.7 billion for the program that provides corporate grants in return for jobs.
  • Insurance companies will be required to give drivers a discount for using winter tires on their vehicles. However, the standard duration of medical and rehabilitation benefits will be reduced from 10 years to five years for all claimants except children.
  • $9 billion expected to be raised from the sale of 60 per cent of Hydro One, the giant electricity transmission utility, $4 billion of which will be devoted to public transit.
  • $100 million a year will be raised with a new tax on all beer sold in Ontario as part of modernization plan that will allow some grocery stores to sell six-packs of beer.
  • $50.8 billion for health care, the single largest government expenditure, which is projected to grow an average of 1.9 per cent a year over three years.
  • $25.2 billion for education, which will grow by two per cent a year, while funding for post-secondary education and training will hold steady at $7.8 billion.
  • All other areas will face average decreases of 5.5 per cent a year until the deficit is eliminated, but they represent only 16 per cent of government’s total program spending.

Here are some of the winners and losers of this year’s budget, according to The Canadian Press:


  • Commuters: The government is spending $11.9 billion on infrastructure in 2015-16, which is part of a $130 billion planned investment over 10 years. It is planning expansions to transit projects in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area, expansions to municipal public transit in communities across the province and upgrades to various highways in Ontario.
  • Cash-strapped students: Those eligible for the Ontario Student Assistance Program will no longer see the value of their car deducted from their loan, which could mean thousands more dollars each year for some. The government will also no longer limit how much students can earn during the school year without seeing their loans reduced.
  • Young professionals: The province is spending $250 million more over two years for its youth jobs strategy, brining it to a total of $565 million.
  • Social Assistance recipients: The province is increasing social assistance rates in 2015 by one per cent for adult Ontario Works clients and people with disabilities receiving Ontario Disability Support Program Benefits.
  • Fertility treatment seekers: The province is pledging to help cover the cost of one round of in vitro fertilization for residents who struggle with an eligible form of infertility.


  • Apprentices: The government is making changes to the Apprenticeship Training Tax Credit, decreasing the general rate from 35 per cent to 25 per cent. The annual maximum per apprentice is also being decreased from $10,000 to $50,000.
  • Drug program recipients: The government will make changes to the Ontario Drug Benefit Program that include adjusting some dispensing payments and practices, modernizing coverage and reimbursement of certain products through evidence-based reviews.
  • Foreign film producers: The government is reducing the rate of a tax credit for foreign film producers, saying Ontario is becoming increasingly attractive due to a lower Canadian dollar.
  • Second Career program: The government will remove client targets for service providers. The change is expected to generate up to $40 million per year in savings.
  • Insurance companies: They will be required to give drivers a discount for using winter tires on their vehicles. The government is also lowering the maximum interest rate charged on monthly auto insurance premium payments.

(From The Canadian Press)