The 43rd Ontario provincial Parliament has begun. Yesterday, new and returning Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) came together to elect the speaker of the Ontario Legislature. Legislators elected Ted Arnott, a Progressive Conservative MPP who served as Speaker in the government’s last mandate, beating an NDP MPP and former Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction Nina Tangri.
This afternoon, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell delivered the government’s Speech from the Throne. The speech began by acknowledging the challenges the province faces with growing global economic uncertainty, new variants of COVID-19, inflation, and domestic labour shortages.
“Taken together, these looming fiscal and economic challenges cannot be understated or ignored. They must be confronted head on.”
Sticking close to the campaign narrative, the speech pointed to Ontario’s strengths and the government’s priorities, including:
- Low taxes and a competitive business environment that attracts investments and creates good jobs.
- A highly skilled workforce prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
- Roads, highways and other critical infrastructure that help get goods and services to market sooner.
- Livable and safe communities with good schools and high-quality hospitals and long-term care homes, as well as convenient transit options.
The speech focused on six main areas: health care, jobs, infrastructure, talent, education and cost of living.
- The speech laid out investments that the government has made during the pandemic and pointed to future investments in the forthcoming budget that aim to improve the Ontario health care system. The speech also notes that while “historic investments have helped to support the province’s health system through the most challenging period in modern history”, Ontario’s health system “continues to experience significant pressures, including an exhausted workforce and increasingly stressed emergency departments.”
- The government is “actively engaging with health-system partners to identify urgent, actionable solutions and will implement whatever measures are needed to help ease immediate pressures, while also ensuring the province is ready to stay open during any winter surge.”
- The province is committed to continue to make investments to implement it’s previously introduced Mental Health Roadmap to Wellness.
- The section on healthcare concludes by calling on the federal government to pay its fair share of healthcare funding. “Like every other province and territory from coast to coast to coast, Ontario continues to urge the federal government to increase its share of provincial-territorial healthcare spending from 22 per cent to 35 per cent through the Canada Health Transfer.”
- The speech focused on the growth of the automotive sector and Ontario becoming the leading electric vehicle production capital of North America, the growth of a clean steel industry and at the centre of it all, the province’s plan for the Ring of Fire.
- “In the months and years ahead, your government will continue to do what has served this province’s economy so well: cut red tape, keep taxes low, foster an environment that attracts global capital and make targeted investments that strengthen Ontario’s competitive advantage.”
Highways, Roads and Transit Infrastructure
- The speech highlighted that the “government is investing a historic $86.6 billion over the next 10 years to build and expand roads, highways and transit infrastructure across Ontario, including Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass.”
- There was also a special note to say that investments were not confined to communities around Toronto but across the province including the widening of Highway 3, the rebuilding of parts of Highway 101 and twinning the Garden City Skyway bridge. Other major projects include the all-new Ontario Line subway, expansion of GO train service and the return of the Northlander train.
Talent and Employment
- The section begins, “Together, let’s build the workforce we need today for the jobs of tomorrow.”
- The government highlighted that they are continuing to invest more than $1 billion in a skilled trades strategy. This includes expanding three-year college degrees for in-demand fields and partnering with union-led training centres and breaking down barriers that prevent out-of-province workers and newcomers from finding good jobs in the trades.
- The provincial government “calls on the federal government to urgently double the number of skilled workers that are allowed to immigrate to Ontario each year.”
- “Ontario’s Plan to Catch Up starts with students back in classrooms, on time and with a full school experience that includes extracurriculars like sports, clubs and field trips. Nothing is more important.”
- Highlighting their commitment they spoke about the newly launched province-wide tutoring program supported by a landmark $175 million investment.
Cost of Living
- Emphasizing the housing crisis, the government positioned “providing the tools municipalities need to break through the logjams that have historically slowed the speed of housing construction, including enhanced authorities for the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa.” Legislation on the housing crisis can come as soon as tomorrow.
- The speech also highlighted steps the government has taken to provide relief to Ontario families including the temporary cut to the provincial gas tax rate by 5.7 cents per litre, the removal of tolls on Highway 412 and 418, the elimination of the cost of renewing licence plates, the recently negotiated deal with the federal government on daycare and the increase of the minimum wage to $15.50 to take effect October 1st.
The speech came to a close by stating that “the promise and potential of Ontario will require all hands on deck. It will include collaboration with workers, businesses and union leaders; partnership with municipalities and the federal government; and it will involve working side-by-side with Indigenous leaders and communities toward meaningful reconciliation.”
New Funding Commitments
The Speech from the Throne made mention of two new funding commitments in the re-introduced Budget 2022. Throughout the campaign, the budget commitments remained largely unchanged except for the pledge to raise the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) rates by 5 per cent. The speech today noted that the government intends to introduce changes that will tie future ODSP increases to inflation.
The only other change the Speech notes is the inclusion of an additional $225 million over two years in direct payments to parents “to help their kids catch up.”
You can read a full version of the Speech from the Throne here.
Following the Throne Speech, Ontario Finance Minister, Peter Bethlenfalvy re-tabled the PCs 2022-2023 provincial budget. The budget had originally been introduced back in April but since it did not pass before the writs were drawn up – served dual purpose as the Ontario PC Party campaign narrative. The budget document, entitled Ontario’s Plan to Build, focuses on affordability, job creation and large investments in infrastructure. The document itself is light on spending details, and its essence was captured by the minister in April when he said it’s about “More jobs. More highways. More hospitals. More opportunities.” You can read our full analysis of the budget here. When re-tabled today, the minister noted that “With costs rising, our plan also includes measures to help families, including new direct payments to parents to help their kids catch up and increasing Ontario Disability Support Program payments.” These additions were previously confirmed in the Speech from the Throne.
“We have a prudent and flexible plan which builds on our record of responsible fiscal management, while making the investments that will reduce commute times, support front-line health care and help create good jobs,” said Minister Bethlenfalvy. “In a time of economic uncertainty, our government is supporting Ontario workers and families by putting more money back into their pockets.”
The government also released the 2022-23 First Quarter Finances today, which provides updated information about the evolution of Ontario’s economic and fiscal outlook since the 2022 Budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
In other Ontario news, yesterday the Ontario Liberals announced new critic roles.
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