Ontario's budget slashes legal aid and eliminates refugee law services

Ontario's budget slashes legal aid and eliminates refugee law services

Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli presents the 2019 budget as Premier Doug Ford looks on at the legislature in Toronto on Thursday, April 11, 2019.

Canada's largest province won't have a balanced budget for the next five years, but Ontarians will have to get used to some gradual fiscal belt-tightening even as the provincial Progressive Conservative government relaxes Ontario's restrictive alcohol rules.

In 2023-24 - after the next election - the province says it will cut spending by $3.8 billion, leaving it with a surplus of $300 million.

The budget does unveil a new tax credit - CARE - for families with low or modest incomes which is created to help offset child care expenses for about 300,000 families.

"I believe the Ford government and this premier are very Toronto focused and his obsession with Toronto is outrageous", Monteith-Farrell said.

They will be also providing $17 billion in capital grants over the next 10 years to modernize and increase capacity at hospitals.

Colleges and universities will see more of their funding linked to performance outcomes over the next five years.

Time and again he said that the provincial government had found savings of 8 cents on the dollar and yet spending still went up, not down.

The post-secondary sector will see funding cuts, with spending dropping one per cent on average for the next three years, largely due to changes to student financial assistance.

The government is also planning to amend legislation to give itself the power to address the fact that some post-secondary faculty are collecting salaries and pension payments at the same time.

Thompson has said proposed changes to education also include the implementation of stronger math, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and financial literacy curricula and improved skilled trades opportunities.

"It is ... use of public money for partisan purposes", she said.

The majority of changes to the rules concerning alcohol are expected to be in place by the summer of 2019. The Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses credit (CARE) will cost the government around $390 million each year. That allowance is instead of cutting the corporate tax rate from 11.5 per cent to 10.5 per cent, as the Tories had promised in the election.

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"We've been talking about alcohol for the duration of this government", he said.

It says insurance forms, policies and other documents will also be simplified so drivers can make informed decisions more easily. The province will also spend an additional $267 million in home care and community care.

It says a new directive will prohibit spending taxpayer dollars on new logos or other visual identifiers from now on.

You'll also be able to start drinking earlier, and possibly later, at licenced establishments.

The province is eliminating the estate administration tax next year for all estates with assets of $50,000 or less.

According to his budget, government revenues previous year were $2.6 billion higher than expected.

That's money, as Fedeli noted, which can't be spent on more health-care workers, fixing schools or reducing taxes.

OLG lottery terminals will also be expanded to provide more interactive gaming experiences, although no further details were provided.

Billions are being shelled out for transit and light rail in the Golden Horseshoe and Ottawa, but the Ford government is still mulling over its options to restore passenger rail service in northeastern Ontario.

The review will also look at how to support rail freight and fix operations in the North. That's why the 2019 budget contains no new tax increases.

At a press conference, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said that it's a move that's "essentially throwing Ontario's reconciliation efforts in the trash bin".

If the regulatory burden can be reduced for the insurance companies, this will hopefully lead to more companies entering the market, resulting in more competition and lower prices for Ontario drivers.