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Ontario Liberal Budget Pledges New Spending to Woo Progressive Voters Ahead of June Election

With only 10 weeks to go until the June 7 provincial election, today the Ontario Liberals introduced an election-ready budget that is intended to draw voter support by committing to new social policy initiatives that underscores the Liberals’ campaign theme of “fairness and opportunity.”

As the Liberals have been consistently behind in the polls over the last year, this is a chance to re-build the Liberal base by investing in traditional Liberal policies including health care, mental health, seniors’ care, education, child care and transit.

After years of holding the line on significant new spending to balance the budget, the Liberals have confirmed they will run a deficit of $6.7 billion to pay for an additional $20.3 billion in spending over three years.

The Liberals’ plan will position the election as a stark choice for voters between a Liberal government that will invest in new social programs, and a PC government under Doug Ford that is likely to focus on reducing government spending.

Using the message “care not cuts,” the Liberals’ platform will emphasize how the PC’s plan to find $6 billion in government “efficiencies” will result in massive cuts to health care, child care, education and civil service jobs.

The new PC platform also remains a wild card ahead of the election, and whether Doug Ford will choose to adopt any of the populist policies from Patrick Brown’s People’s Guarantee including new investments in mental health, autism services, and public transit.  Further clarity on the Ford PC platform is needed before voters will know how the political contrasts will shape up in the election.

The Liberals’ left-leaning platform also borrows directly from some of the NDP’s proposals, including the expansion of pharmacare, free dental care, and affordable child care, which threatens the NDP’s base. As a result, the NDP will compete to be seen as the more “progressive” party, while criticizing the Liberals’ record of government waste and privatization of Hydro One.

While the Liberals’ something for everyone election budget makes a lot of promises, it remains to be seen if it will be enough to increase voter support.  A lot of Ontarians will be waiting to see what the other parties have to offer before making their decision, and as we’ve seen with other recent elections, anything can happen before June 7.

Below is a summary of some of the Liberal’s key budget announceables:

Health Care Investments

  • $19 billion over 10 years to build and renovate hospitals, and an annual funding increase for hospitals of 4.6 percent in 2018-19
  • $2.1 billion for mental health services for children and adults
  • A new Seniors’ Healthy Home Program that provides $750 annually per home for seniors over 75
  • Expanding access to free prescription drugs for seniors and covering another 4,000 common prescription drugs through OHIP +
  • A new Ontario Drug and Dental program that reimburses 80 percent of drug and dental costs for people without benefits

Transportation and Infrastructure

  • $230 billion over 14 years for infrastructure projects including transit, bridges, roads, hospitals and schools
  • $23.1 billion investment in transit including expansion of all-day, two-way GO train service across the GTHA and building six new GO stations
  • Building the GO Regional Express Rail System and six new SmartTrack stations in the City of Toronto
  • $11 billion commitment to build a High Speed Rail corridor from Toronto to Windsor

Ontario Business Benefits

  • $900 million over 10 years to create and retain jobs through the Jobs and Prosperity Fund
  • $935 million over three years through the Good Jobs and Growth Plan to help business, graduates and students attract jobs

Education

  • Free licensed child care for all children from the ages of 2.5 to 4 by the year 2020
  • $16 billion over 10 years for school infrastructure, and building 39 new schools
  • $3 billion in capital grants to post secondary institutions over 10 years and $500 million to modernize campuses

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