The Conservative government tabled its first budget on April 11. Many of the details about the budget had been released in the weeks and days preceding budget day, however the budget did contain some previously unannounced measures.
Budgets reflect the political and policy priorities of governments. In its first budget, the Conservative government has made it clear that it prioritizes corporate tax cuts over education, healthcare and social services.
In this budget, the government is redirecting funding away from public programs and towards corporate tax cuts and has signalled that it will continue to do so for the remainder of its current term in office.
The government went to great lengths to obscure the severity of cuts to education, these will become apparent in the weeks to come. In addition to previously announced measures, ETFO members will also experience the impact of the broader cuts to public services. From cuts to health care, social assistance and legal aid, educators will witness the effects of the erosion of Ontario’s social safety net on the students in their classrooms.
The government provided a revised deficit figure of $11.7 billion for the 2018-19 fiscal year. The government projected the deficit to be reduced to $10.3 billion for the 2019-20 fiscal year and provided a plan to return to a balanced budget by 2023-24.
The government plans to achieve this deficit reduction by cutting spending in social programs, including health care, education, and community and social services. Spending reductions include plans to restrict wage growth across the public sector.
The budget was short on details regarding education funding. Additional details are expected when the government releases the Grants for Student Needs (GSN) in late April. Total education spending is set to increase by 1.2 percent. This increase will be easily outpaced by the current rate of inflation of 1.9 percent and projected enrollment growth of 0.87 percent in elementary and secondary panels combined.
The government introduced a new child care tax credit named the Ontario Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit. This tax credit is forecast to cost $390 million annually and will come out of the education funding envelope.When accounting for the increase in enrollment, the rate of inflation and the cost of the CARE tax credit, it is expected that per-pupil education funding will decrease. This will have to be confirmed when details about the GSN are released.
The budget included $1.4 billion in school renewal funding for 2019-20 which is in line with what the previous government had allocated for 2018-19. Also included in the budget was funding for the creation of a new First Nations, Inuit and Métis curriculum for grades 9-12.
The government committed $1 billion over the next 5 years to create 30,000 child care spaces in schools, including 10,000 in new schools. The government did not provide details on how it plans to create these new spaces. Further details are expected at a later time.
The government also used the budget to announce the creation of a Minister’s Task Force on School Boards that will be asked to review all aspects of school board operations.
In this budget, the government confirmed previously announced plans to increase average class sizes in grades 4-8 to 24.5 and in grades 9-12 from 22 to 28. The government also confirmed its intention to enact other education reforms announced on March 15, including proposed changes to hiring practices contained in Regulation 274, a new Math curriculum to be implemented over four years, the creation of a Parent Bill of Rights and a revised Health and Physical Education Curriculum.
The budget contained deep cuts to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. These cuts will total $1 billion by 2021-22 and include previously announced reductions to planned increases to social assistance rates, but also new measures including severe cuts to Legal Aid Ontario that will have an immediate impact. The government also signalled major changes in how it funds children services, including child welfare and special needs and early intervention programs.
Despite their stated focus on deficit reduction, the government announced several tax cuts that will disproportionately benefit corporations and higher income earners. The government announced $1.4 billion in corporate tax cuts for the fiscal year 2019-20, which will total $3.8 billion over six years. This change is in addition to the already announced cancellation of the cap-and-trade system and the reduction in WSIB premiums for employers.
The government touted $26 billion in tax cuts over six years. This amount includes corporate tax cuts, new tax credits, and previously announced changes to income tax.
The full budget document can be found here:
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