WEB ONLY: Provincial budget will help locals cope in tough economy

STRATFORD – Liberal MPP and cabinet minister John Wilkinson said the Ontario government’s 2009 budget lays out a plan to help families in Perth-Wellington affected by the global economic crisis and positions Ontario to become more competitive for a more prosperous future.

“Through this budget, the provincial government is helping families in Perth-Welling­ton who are being hurt by the global economic crisis,” said Wilkinson.

“But we’re doing much more than that. With our comprehensive tax reform, we’re making Ontario stronger and more competitive, and that will help our families and businesses when prosperity returns. 

“This is the single most important thing we can do to create jobs and position our economy for future growth.”

Wilkinson said the Ontario government is spending $34-billion over two years to stimulate the economy, including $32.5-billion in infrastructure spending and nearly $700-million in additional funding for skills training.

He estimated the result is  preserving or creating more than 300,000 jobs over the next two years.

 The government is proposing to accelerate the phase-in of the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) two years ahead of schedule, increase social assistance rates, and spend for social housing infrastructure.

The budget also proposes a comprehensive tax package that includes moving to a single, value-added sales tax at a combined rate of 13 per cent on July 1, 2010. 

Over the next three years, the government is proposing $10.6-billion in tax relief. That includes $4-billion in transitional cash payments as well as ongoing, permanent tax relief.  Business taxes would also be cut by $4.5-billion over three years. 

The 2009 budget forecasts deficits of $3.9-billion in 2008-09 and $14.1-billion for 2009-10.  It lays out a plan to balance the budget by 2015-16.

Other budget highlights men­tioned by Wilkinson in­clude:

– nearly $90-million for summer employment opportunities for youth, which could benefit more than 100,000 young people this summer;

– $400-million more in children’s benefits over the next three years, providing low- and middle-income families with up to $1,100 annually per child in Ontario Child Benefit payments starting this July, providing additional payments to 115,000 families;

– $1.2-billion to renovate 50,000 social housing units and build 4,500 new affordable housing units for low-income seniors and people with disabilities;

– $390-million to match the federal Green Infrastructure Fund to develop and expedite the growth, transmission and distribution of clean, green renewable energy;

– $5-million over two years to develop the Green Jobs Skills Strategy that responds to labour demand in the emerging green energy sector, including electricity;

– $250-million over five years for a new emerging technologies fund that will include spending for green technology;

– $35-million capital investment for an additional 100 medical school spots;

– $50-million annually in proposed enhancements to the co-operative education tax credit  and apprenticeship training tax credit;

– $40-million from the single sales tax – once established – to support destination marketing in Ontario tourism regions;

– $1.5-million for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to plan the development of new agri-food research centres focused on livestock and crop production, renewable energy, nutrition and health; and

– $8-million annually, starting in 2009-10, to promote Ontario food products to the broader public sector.

Tax Reform

Starting July 1, 2010, pending legislative approval, Onta­rio would move to a single value-added sales tax merging the GST and PST to make Ontario more competitive and lead to job creation.

Four Canadian provinces and more than 130 countries have adopted a value-added tax structure, which is the government stated is more efficient than a retail sales tax and would enhance the ability of Ontario businesses to compete and grow.

Books, diapers, children’s clothing, and footwear, children’s car seats and car booster seats and feminine hygiene products would be exempt from the provincial portion of the single sales tax.

To support new housing, newly constructed homes un­der $400,000 would not be subject to an additional tax burden. And buyers of new homes valued between $400,000 and $500,000 could also claim a proportional rebate.

Eligible families with an income of $160,000 or less would get three payments totalling $1,000 to help them adjust to the new single sales tax. Eligible single people with an income of $80,000 or less would get three payments totalling $300. The first benefit payment would arrive in June 2010, the second in December 2010, and the third in June 2011.

For more information on the 2009 provincial budget, visit www.fin.gov.on.ca.