The Ontario Government will unveil its highly anticipated provincial budget on April 28. The budget will likely serve as the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party’s campaign platform ahead of the June 2 provincial election. It is anticipated that the writs will be issued days later on May 4.
In addition, this will likely be the last legislative shot the Opposition has at the Government before the election. The Ford Government is poised to deliver a “good news” document, which will make the Opposition’s reaction tricky.
Back to basics
This budget will likely have a “back to basics” approach, with a minor focus on the pandemic response. Expect to see the PC Government cutting the deficit. The PCs hope to deliver a message of positivity and show Ontarians and the Opposition that the economy is on the rebound after more than two years of COVID-19.
The budget will also focus on providing relief to Ontarians, as we have seen with a series of announcements in the pre-budget period. This has included the cancellation of the license plate renewal fees and related rebates, as well as a cut to the gas and fuel taxes.
The PC Government had an opportunity to provide Ontarians with a fiscal outlook in last year’s Fall Economic Statement where the focus was on healthcare and building back the province following the economic downturn. Since then, the Financial Accountability Office released their Economic and Budget Outlook, Spring 2022 Report that shows that the province posted a $16.4-billion deficit in 2020-21 due to COVID-19 spending. Despite this, Ontario is now seeing strong revenue growth that will outpace program spending which results in the province being on track to balance the budget by 2023-24.
One of the biggest issues facing Ontario today is finding a solution to housing affordability. The budget will look to build upon the recently passed “More Homes for Everyone” Bill 109, which addresses the housing crisis.
As housing prices continue to skyrocket, there has been a mass exodus out of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Ontario has also seen the largest number of individuals relocating to other provinces since the 1980s. To keep Ontarians in the province, the government should continue to invest in transit-oriented communities.
This is a key focus area that the Ford Government will need to address, as Ontarians and the opposition will be waiting for a strong, long-term outlook on how this issue will be resolved.
How will opposition parties respond?
As Ontarians prepare to head to the polls, many are wondering what the Ontario budget will mean for the Opposition—NDP, Liberals and Greens.
Opposition parties need to highlight government weaknesses and remind voters of unfinished business or scrapped promises from the previous election.
Andrea Horwath as Leader of the Opposition has the largest platform to hit back at the Government. She will likely focus on health, education, and housing with a special emphasis on Ontarians who have been left behind during the last four years.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca will likely hit hard on the competence issue—a consistent focus of his campaign. He and his team have been highlighting what they believe to be the Ford Government’s inability to actually get things done.
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner will no doubt focus on the environmental agenda including weakening regulations, building highways in sensitive areas and a lack of progress on the green agenda. He had previously noted that there was a lack of anything substantial in terms of climate change in the Fall Economic Statement.
It will be a very short window in which the opposition can respond prior to the election, so precision and clarity of message will be important for all three Opposition leaders.
NATIONAL will be publishing a series of perspective pieces throughout the next two months, while the province prepares for what could be an exciting election on June 2 as the parties race towards the 63 seats required to form a majority government.
——— Troy Aharonian is a former Senior Consultant at NATIONAL Public Relations