2019 Provincial Budget Summary
Finance Minister Vic Fedeli released the Government of Ontario’s 2019 Provincial Budget on April 11th.
In a year with so much talk about financial constraint, perhaps the good news is that the developmental services sector received almost zero mention. There were no specific cuts for the sector announced in the budget, nor were there any funding increases.
The document did outline that the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services would see a decrease to its budget from $17 billion to $16 billion by 2021/22, but there were few details about how those savings would be realized. According to the budget, reductions would come from:
- Modernizing the youth justice system;
- Operational efficiencies through the integration of human services programs, such as income support, child care, affordable housing, etc;
- Streamlining transfer payment processes, aligning and integrating multiple service contracts, simplifying reporting requirements;
- Exploring ways to transform services to increase choice for people and families; and
- Evidence-based sector transformation, including developmental services and other programs.
Clearly, we will need to learn more about what the government has in mind with respect to these undertakings.
There was no commitment to increase ODSP income support in the coming year. The budget did repeat a previously announced commitment to increase the clawback from employment before ODSP income is impacted to $6,000 annually and to calculate this on an annual basis. After this threshold has been reached, however, the reduction of funding will be 75 cents for every dollar earned.
The main focus of the budget included a plan to eliminate the provincial deficit by 2023. Large investments for building new transit systems were included and have been covered in the news in the days leading up to the budget. The government is also creating a new refundable tax credit to help low- and medium-income families cover some of their child care expenses.
There were a few announcements that were of particular significance to people with disabilities including the following:
- A new program to cover dental care for low-income seniors;
- Investments of $174 million this year to support community mental health and addiction services;
- A reiteration of the previously announced commitment to fund the construction of children’s treatment centres in Ajax and Ottawa;
- A reiteration of the previously announced plan to eliminate the 23,000-person waiting list for autism services;
- Launching of the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program to certify public buildings and businesses for accessibility; and
- A reiteration of support for the Federal affordable housing strategy.
Community Living Ontario was hoping that the budget would include a commitment to retain the funding announced in the 2018 Budget to provide a minimum amount of $5,000 to any person deemed eligible to receive Passport funding. While we have received verbal assurances from the ministry that this funding will remain in place, we have not yet seen a public statement to that effect.
In recent weeks, the government has also made public plans to increase class sizes and reduce the number of teachers in the education system by 3,500. The budget provided no further information regarding the specific impact this may have on students who have a disability, but such constraint is clearly of concern to Community Living Ontario and is an issue that we will be paying close attention to in the coming weeks.