The Ontario government has now tabled its 2019 provincial budget. It’s not the slash and burn budget many critics were expecting, but there are significant cuts to services in this province. This includes, indigenous affairs, children’s services and support for homeless and low income Ontarians.
The Progressive Conservative government adds, they will unable to balance the books for the province for another five years. In their own press release, the province says, “The 2019 Ontario Budget introduces no new taxes and, along with measures announced to date, will allow the government to provide a projected $26 billion in much-needed relief to individuals, families and businesses over six years, and eliminate the deficit.” The PC government plans to reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion in the 2019-20 fiscal year, lowering it to $10.3 billion.
But what does this mean to regular Ontarians and their bottom line? Here are six key takeaways that affect your personal finances.
The government says it is giving drivers more choice when deciding which auto insurance coverage suits their needs. The PC’s say they want to give drivers more control over their rates. A suite of proposals include working with the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) in order to reduce regulations, and doing away with postcode-based insurance rates have been posited. The multi-year strategy includes reducing regulations, and implementing pay-as-you-go plans.
The government is also introducing a Driver Care Card, which would streamline access to care and make claims processing easier.
2. Childcare assistance
The government is proposing a new Ontario Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses tax credit. They are calling it CARE and say the average family will receive $1,250 for childcare costs. This tax credit would be on top of the existing Federal Child Care Expense Deduction. The credit is income tested up to a household income of $150,000. They say it could see families receive up to $6,000 for eligible child care expenses per child under seven. For those between the ages of seven-16, the credit is $3,750 per child, and $8,250 per child with a severe disability. The government claims this new CARE tax credit will provide about 300,000 families with up to 75 percent of their eligible child care expense, and allow families to access a broad range of child care options, including care in centres, homes and camps. To qualify for a child care credit that equals for ¾ of your spending, your household income would have to be less than $20,000 a year.
3. Healthcare spending
The government says it’s investing $90 million in a new dental program for seniors that will start by late summer 2019. This program will benefit individual seniors with annual incomes of $19,300 or less and senior couples with combined annual incomes of less than $32,300.
4. Easier access to alcohol
Now, this might not be a 100 percent personal finance benefit exactly, but Ontarians now have more choice of where and how they can drink. This could save drinkers money. It’s called “Improving Choice and Convenience for Alcohol Consumers.” They have introduced legislation that if passed would let municipalities allow alcohol to be consumed in public areas, such as parks. They will allow tailgating parties at eligible sporting events. Bars can also start serving alcohol at 9:00 a.m. start, seven days a week. Also new legislation, if passed, would pause a wine tax increase that was scheduled for April 1, 2019 this would leave more money in the pockets of wine drinkers. Also, rules are now changing allowing "happy hour" to be advertised by restaurants and bars. Happy hour is a time when food an alcohol is sold at discount prices and was previously not allowed to be promoted by venues.
5. Estate tax
The province is eliminating administration tax for the first $50,000 of an estate while reducing the tax by $250 on estates worth more.
6. Cuts to services
The provincial budget reveals that about $1 billion is being cut from Ontario’s Children, Community and Social Services Ministry over the next three years. This will mean reduced services for those families and children that depend on those programs. The budget is finding annual savings by of $510 million by streaming administration and simplified reporting in programs such as income support, child care, affordable housing and homelessness prevention programs.
It’s not the austerity budget many critics were saying it would be. But there are significant cuts to programs that some of Ontario’s most vulnerable residents depend on.
This is the first provincial budget since the PC government won a majority government in the fall of 2018.