Ontario returns to budget balance, unveils drug coverage for youth

The moon rises over the Toronto city skyline as seen from Milton Ontario

The moon rises over the Toronto city skyline as seen from Milton Ontario

The Ontario Liberals, who control a majority in the government and are up for election next year, released a budget including more spending on healthcare and extended its infrastructure plan by an extra year.

In another example of how the Liberals ignore established budgeting practices, Finance Minister Charles Sousa, or as Brown dubbed him, "Chef Sousa" for cooking the books, told the Legislature in his budget speech that the Liberals would balance the budget not only this year but "next year and the year after that".

The Liberals are selling this as a health budget and while it's true that the health portion has gone up by $2 billion this year, there are increases all across the board.

Overall, hydro relief measures will cost the treasury $1.4 billion in 2017-18. Ontario will spend $53.8 billion on health care this year, up from $52.2 billion last year. An additional $9-billion capital investment over 10 years will provide faster access to care and help to meet the needs of the growing aging population. “Its a Hail Mary pass by a government thats run the province into the ground for years.”.

Students are also getting a hand with work experience, with $190 million earmarked over three years to create 40,000 placements for them and for recent graduates.

The centrepiece of the plan is a $465-million-a-year pharmacare program for children and youth, which would cover prescription medications to treat most acute and common chronic conditions for people under age 25, with no deductible or co-payment.

The government expects to roll out the new Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), which means free tuition for more than 210,000 students in post secondary education starting this fall.

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The program will cover common childhood medications including antibiotics, asthma inhalers, diabetes medication, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder medication.

Pharmacare will be implemented January 2018.

The province also removed the $30 fee for the Drive Clean Emission Test, the mandatory vehicle emissions inspections and maintenance program, which tests more than two million vehicles a year. It will also create a public transit tax credit for seniors. It comes after hospitals warned of overcrowding and patients being placed in hallways, boardrooms and even cafeterias when there weren't enough beds.

This includes money to address hospital overcrowding, funding for mental health and addiction services, cash for hospital construction projects, as well as home care.

There is also $11 million over three years for a seniors community grant program and another $8 million over three years for new community centres with seniors' programming.

This plan introduces a comprehensive package of measures to help more people find affordable homes, as well as increase supply, protect buyers and renters, and bring stability to the real estate market. And it will increase the food allowance for residents of long-term care homes by six per cent.

As the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) is involved in many stakeholder efforts in both Canada and the US on the issue of autonomous vehicles, the association says it looks forward to working with provincial officials on navigating the operational, infrastructure and regulatory considerations related to highly automated vehicles in Ontario. The pill, which only rolled out for Canadian use earlier this year, can cost as much as $400 a dose in some parts of Ontario, which advocates warned would dissuade some women from seeking the less invasive option. But just as certainly, it's not only about providing drug coverage to children and young adults.

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