Provincial budget ‘will help us build a stronger Ontario’: Rae

Schreiner, Stiles say budget fails to adequately address housing, health care, affordability issues

TORONTO – The provincial government says its 2023-24 budget, introduced on Thursday, includes key investments in housing, agriculture and health care, while opposition parties say the plan falls short in a number of areas.

“This budget will help us build a strong Ontario,” Perth-Wellington MPP Matthew Rae stated in a press release. 

Ontario Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy, who introduced the budget on March 23, said the government’s “thoughtful, transparent approach” includes “a plan to balance the budget while delivering support to families, workers, and businesses across Ontario.”

He added, “We will continue with this approach that is building an Ontario the people of this province can be proud of, not only today but in the future – an Ontario that is strong.”

Home, community care

The finance ministry release stated this year’s budget builds on the 2022 budget commitment to invest $1 billion over three years “connecting more people to care from the comfort of their own home and community.” 

The release states investments are being accelerated to bring funding in 2023-24 up to $569 million.  

“This funding will help stabilize the home and community care workforce, expanding home care services, and improving the quality of care,” states the ministry.

Seniors, students

“The budget also provides financial support to more seniors by proposing changes to expand the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) program, starting in July 2024, to make 100,000 additional seniors eligible for the program and adjust the benefit annually to inflation.” 

The government says the funding builds on the government’s work to temporarily double the GAINS payment for eligible seniors until December 2023.  

“We are supporting our senior citizens,” Rae said.  

“They have built this province, and it is only right that we provide the resources and care they need in their golden years.”  

The government’s plan will also see an expansion of the Ontario Learn and Stay Grant in spring 2023 for eligible postsecondary students who enroll in programs in southwestern Ontario, including nursing, medical laboratory technologist/medical laboratory sciences programs, and work in under-served communities in the region where they studied after graduation. 

Healthcare, mental health

Additional healthcare investments include $200 million in 2023-24 to extend supports to address immediate health care staffing shortages, as well as to grow the workforce for years to come. 

“The province continues to support our rural healthcare system,” Rae said. 

“The extension and expansion of programs like the Ontario Learn and Stay Grant are integral to communities such as ours.”  

Mental health and addictions services will receive $425 million over three years, including a five per cent increase in the base funding of community-based mental health and addictions services providers funded by the Ministry of Health. 

Skilled workers 

The budget also provides $25 million over three years to attract more skilled workers, including in-demand professionals in the skilled trades, to the province.

This program is focused on nominating applicants for permanent residency who have the skills and experience to support Ontario’s Plan to Build.  

“I have heard from many businesses and organizations that they cannot find new employees,” Rae said. 

“With one of the lowest unemployment rates in Ontario, employers in Perth and Wellington Counties can benefit greatly from this investment.”  

Housing, homelessness

The release stated Ontario is also calling on the federal government to defer the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) on all new large scale purpose-built rental housing projects to tackle the ongoing housing affordability crisis, indicating the measure would help spur the construction of more rental housing units while helping to create jobs, encourage economic development, and support growth.

An additional $202 million each year will be provided for the Homelessness Prevention Program and Indigenous Supportive Housing Program. 

This funding is designed to help those experiencing or at risk of homelessness, struggling with mental health and substance use, those escaping intimate partner violence, and to support the community organizations delivering supportive housing.  

“It is essential that we build a variety of housing in communities across Ontario,” said Rae.  

“This additional investment represents a 40% increase from the previous year.”


Agriculture investments include $14.7 million over two years for a new collaborative Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program starting in 2024-25 with the University of Guelph and Lakehead University to address veterinarian shortages in rural and northern communities.

The government’s plan is projected to balance the budget with the province on track to post a surplus in 2024-25, three years earlier than estimated, the release states.

Schreiner’s take

Green Party Leader and Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner said the budget is not all bad.

“I’m really pleased to see funding for the veterinarian program at the University of Guelph and Lakehead University,” he said in a phone interview.

“There’s a real shortage of veterinarians and it’s something I’ve been pushing really hard for.”

The budget includes $14.7 million to create 140 spots in the program each year with the intent of graduates working in the livestock/agri-food sector.

“I’m also pleased to see a 5% increase in base funding to mental health,” Schreiner said. 

“I pushed for 8% but 5% is better than nothing.”

Schreiner called the $200 million in the budget for homelessness “woefully insufficient.

“It won’t come close to solving the problem, but it’s a start,” he said.

And with all of the announcements around funding for healthcare, Schreiner said the province did nothing to ensure frontline healthcare workers, like nurses and PSWs, get a fair wage.

“The government had the opportunity to focus on [that]. But instead they waste money fighting (the court ruling) on Bill 124,” he said.

“That’s what’s contributing to the health human resource crisis.”

Also disappointing for Schreiner is a lack of funding in the budget for affordable housing.

There are tax breaks for developers who build so-called affordable housing but Bill 23 and Bill 109 reduce timelines for planning applications and development charges and make it even more difficult for municipalities to ensure a mix of housing types and price points are available in their communities.

“We need money to support co-ops and non-profit housing. There’s nothing in the budget for that,” Schreiner said.

Similarly, there will be no increase for people living on funds from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or Ontario Works, he noted.

Schreiner said ODSP pays $1,200 a month and Ontario Works $731 a month while rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Guelph is about $2,000.

“You can’t live on that,” he said. 

“The rising cost of living is affecting the most vulnerable the most. And poverty costs about $33 billion a year. This is legislated poverty.”

More than anything, Schreiner said the province has done nothing to address or prepare for the climate crisis at hand.

He predicted the crisis will cost the province $26.2 billion over the next seven years, “and municipalities will bear the brunt.”

Stiles not pleased

NDP and Official Opposition Leader Marit Stiles slammed the budget for failing to meet the current needs of Ontarians. 

“Ford’s Conservatives want you to think that this is the new normal – that this is as good as it gets. But things are not normal in Ontario right now,” said Stiles in a statement released following the budget announcement. 

“Ford’s budget fails to meet the moment, and shows he isn’t interested in making the investments we need in public health care, affordable housing, or education – all the things that make Ontario a place where people want to live, work, learn, and grow.”

Stiles’ statement highlighted what her NDP party feels are key problems with the budget: 

  • shortchanging municipalities through massive cuts, meaning families will pay higher property taxes for poorer services;
  • funnelling public money into private health care facilities “run by [the government’s] insider friends” causing longer wait times, more ER closures and forcing more nurses out of the sector;
  • making it even harder for Ontarians to find an affordable place to live as the budget predicts fewer housing starts next year than this year, and nowhere near on track to meet the government’s stated goal of 1.5 million homes in 10 years;
  • no minimum wage increases, meaning with inflation at a 40-year high, people will take a pay cut;
  • no increases for people who rely on Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program and no mention at all of the Autism Program;  and
  • no rent control to protect people from “renovictions.” 

For more information on the budget visit