This afternoon, the Ontario government tabled its 2023 fall economic statement titled “The 2023 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review: Building a Strong Ontario Together.” Below, you will find a summary of the key points from the statement.
Need to Know
- The Ontario government is propping up an all-new $3 billion Ontario infrastructure bank, targeted at housing, long-term care facilities, energy, housing, municipal infrastructure and transportation projects.
- Affordability is front and centre with the extension of the government’s 10-cents-a-litre gas tax cut until June 2024 and taking the provincial portion of the HST off of purpose-built rental housing projects.
- Inflationary pressures, high interest rates and geopolitical unrest has led to Ontario reporting a deficit of $5.6 billion for 2023-24, four times the $1.3 billion it projected in its March budget earlier this year, delaying a balanced budget to 2026.
Why It Matters
- The channel changer: The PCs hope the splash of a new infrastructure bank will not just be a distraction from Greenbelt politics, but reunite public opinion around the urgency of getting housing built.
- Ontario is learning from the pitfalls of its federal cousin and giving its new bank a clear, independent mandate to get needed housing and infrastructure built with the help of Canada’s top pension funds and other leading institutional players, who are conveniently located on their doorstep.
- The big picture: With the proposed bank and more money for Invest Ontario and a flow-through share tax credit, the PCs continue to signal that Ontario is “open for business” and ready to support the $26 billion in new investments in its EV and battery sector.
- The stretch goal: The government is temporarily abandoning the path to a balanced budget and their fiscally conservative principles with Ontarians reporting cost of living as their top issue and struggling to pay higher interest on mortgages.
Ontario Infrastructure Bank
The provincial government is setting up a new arms-length $3 billion infrastructure bank to attract private money from institutions, such as pension and insurance funds. Going into large projects with these institutional investors reduces the risk of these projects and helps attract more private capital.
Zoom in: The bank’s initial focus will be primarily on housing, but also on long-term care, energy and transit. The government has also said the bank would help enable more Indigenous-sponsored projects.
Zoom out: Several other jurisdictions have used infrastructure banks to sponsor large infrastructure projects, including California, UK, Australia and Germany.
The bottom line: With differing opinions on the success of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, it will be up to the provincial government to demonstrate results – and more importantly – value for money.
What’s next: In the near future, we can expect the province to unveil the bank’s governance structure, including its interim chair board and leadership team.
- Allocating an additional $100 million for Invest Ontario, the province’s investment attraction agency, to support businesses and attract jobs in the province.
- The agency is focused on attracting investments in advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and technology.
- Enhancing the Ontario Focused Flow-Through Share Tax Credit to serve as a stimulus for critical minerals exploration.
- Implementing a Target Benefit Framework that will serve to regulate retirement plans primarily seen in the skilled trades sector.
- Introducing legislative changes to strengthen the province’s litigation when it comes to holding international pharmaceutical companies accountable for the opioid crisis.
- Introducing a $200 million Housing-Enabling Water Systems Fund (over three years) to support municipalities, prevent flooding, and enable housing development.
- Matching the federal government with a legislative (or excise) vaping tax to promote better health outcomes.
- Enacting certain capital markets reforms through legislative changes to the Securities Act and Commodity Futures Act.
- Previewing that the results of the ongoing tax reform consultations will be shared as part of Budget 2024.
By the numbers
- The new deficit projection for 2023-24 is now $5.6 billion, $5.3 billion next year, and a “modest surplus” is expected to be reported in 2026.
- Interestingly, the government added a top-up of $2.5 billion to the contingency fund, in addition to the $1 billion reserve fund.
- The government is investing a total of $185 billion over 10 years in its capital plan to build more hospitals, schools, transit, highways and long-term care homes. There are no additions or changes to the capital plan since the March budget.
As a reminder, the government announced the “big ticket” items from FES earlier this week, including:
- Extending the gas tax cut until the end of June 2024.
- Axing the province’s cut of HST (harmonized sales tax) on purpose-built rentals to incentivize housing construction.
- Expanding breast cancer screenings to women 40+ starting in Fall 2024.
- Budget consultations: The Finance Minister starts trekking across the province next week for budget consultations.
- With the Fall Economic Statement unveiled, the province will quickly turn its attention to preparing the 2024 Budget, which means pre-budget consultations are right around the corner.
- While more details on formal consultations will be released in the coming weeks, stakeholders can already start sending their ideas to email@example.com to be considered.
- FES legislation: The government will be working to get the FES bill and other key pieces of legislation on the docket this fall passed before the winter break hits in early December.
Our team will keep our eyes peeled on the FES legislation and the new Ontario Infrastructure Bank.
If you have any questions about today’s announcements, please reach out our team of political veterans at firstname.lastname@example.org.