What to know ahead of the 2022 Ontario budget

The Ontario Progressive Conservative government will table their 2022 budget Thursday afternoon, outlining not only their fiscal priorities for the year but the framework for their re-election campaign.

For months, Premier Doug Ford and his PC MPPs have been making campaign-style stops at cities across the province to reveal, little-by-little, some voter-friendly tidbits that will be inside the document.

It’s clear from these announcements that while the 2021 budget acted as a pathway out of the pandemic, this year it’s all about affordability and infrastructure building.

Live coverage of the budget will begin on CP24 at 4 p.m. and will be streamed on CTVNewsToronto.ca and the CTV News app.

Here’s what you need to know:

There will likely be no real debate on this budget in the legislature, as the deadline to drop the writ—May 4—is fast approaching. The government may also choose to adjourn directly after the budget is tabled, effectively ensuring the document becomes their election platform.

The budget was originally meant to be tabled on March 31, which would have given the legislature ample time to discuss and debate the details—however in February the Ford government tabled legislation that would extend that deadline until the end of April. This effectively meant the PCs had to rewrite one of their own laws put in place in 2019 that would see both Ford and the Minister of Finance pay a penalty for missing the deadline.

At the time, the PC government said the deadline had to be pushed to give them time to look at the latest financial projections as Ontario exited COVID-19 restrictions.

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE BUDGET SO FAR?

Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy has said the budget will be “a plan for rebuilding Ontario’s economy” and will include funding for highways, transit, hospitals and other key infrastructure projects.

Among the tidbits previously announced are about $3 billion to revamp hospitals, hundreds of millions of dollars to manufacture electric vehicles and about $500 million this year to build and fix schools while adding childcare spaces.

There are also a number of other projects, including the Bradford Bypass and Highway 413, which currently have no price tags attached to them.

Some of the more populist moves include the elimination of licence plate renewal fees, something that Ontarians will already be aware of if they received a cheque in the mail.

In February the government announced that licence plate renewal fees and corresponding stickers for passenger vehicles, light duty trucks, motorcycles and mopeds would be scrapped—a move that would save Ontarians about $120 a year.

Drivers who have no outstanding parking tickets and whose addresses were up to date should have received a refund for the fees retroactive to March 2020.

These fees, according to Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer (FAO), brought in about $1.95 billion in revenue for the government in 2018-2019. The budget should outline how much this promise will cost the PCs.

The Ford government has also made a number of other affordability-themed announcements leading up to the budget, including a 50-cent increase in minimum wage and a cut to gas and fuel taxes for a six-month period.

Ontario’s FAO Peter Weltman told CTV News Toronto on Wednesday there have been questions about how Ford plans to fund these pre-election promises.

“This licence plate sticker cut over a five-year period is about $6.7 billion. It’s not just one billion dollars. And secondly, that money has to be borrowed,” he said.

Weltman added adding that Ontario is in a relatively strong fiscal position and could see “terrific growth” over the next couple of years.

In April, the FAO said the province was on track to balance the budget by 2023-24.

At the same time, the budget watchdog projected that spending will grow by an average of 3.6 per cent a year over the next five years due to these kind of spending commitments.

With files from Siobhan Morris and Canadian Press

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