Ontario Tables Biggest Budget Ever at $204 Billion, Forecasts Small Surplus by 2024–25

By Marnie Cathcart
Marnie Cathcart
Marnie Cathcart
Marnie Cathcart is a reporter based in Edmonton.
March 23, 2023Updated: March 23, 2023

Ontario’s provincial government released its 2023 budget totalling $204 billion, with money earmarked for highway expansion and construction, transit, hospital infrastructure, child care spaces, and capital grants.

The budget forecasts a small surplus of $200 million in 2024–25, three years earlier than forecast in the 2022 budget. The province will start the fiscal 2023–24 year next month with a $1.3 billion deficit.

The 2022–23 deficit is projected to be $2.2 billion, $17.7 billion lower than projected in last year’s budget.

The government indicated it would launch a 10 percent refundable corporate income tax credit for manufacturers producing goods in Ontario. It also promised investment of $27.9 billion for the planning and construction of highway expansion and rehabilitation projects.

The listed plans include Highway 413, a new 400-series highway and transportation corridor across Halton, Peel, and York regions; the Bradford Bypass, a new four-lane freeway connecting Highway 400 in the County of Simcoe and Highway 404 in York Region; and the new Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph.

Ontario committed $70.5 billion for transit over the next decade, including promises to improve the transit rail and “the largest subway expansion in Canadian history,” which includes the Ontario Line, the Scarborough Subway Extension, the Yonge North Subway Extension, and the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension.

With $48 million directed to hospital infrastructure, Ontario said it planned to add 3,000 more hospital beds in the next 10 years, and spend $15 billion in capital grants to expand schools and create 86,000 new child care spaces by December 2026.

Ontario said it would address health care shortages with a total budget of $81 billion, an increase from the $75 billion spent in 2022–23. Of that, $200 million is set for workforce training of up to 6,000 nursing students in education opportunities, and to accredit up to 3,150 internationally trained nurses to practice in the province.

Another $500 million is supposed to improve home care, and $425 million will be directed to mental health and additional programs.

It also said it would spend $80 million over a three-year period to offer more university and college nursing programs, which the government said will add 8,000 more nurses by 2028.

The budget lists an additional $33 million over three years targeted for the addition of 100 undergraduate seats beginning in 2023, as well as 154 postgraduate medical training seats, which the government said is “to prioritize Ontario residents trained at home and abroad beginning in 2024 and going forward.”

Ontario residents will also continue to be prioritized for undergraduate spots at medical schools, said the province.

The budget commits to providing gas tax and fuel tax rate cuts until the end of this year.

By fall 2023, the Ontario government said pharmacists will be able to prescribe medication for acne, canker sores, diaper rash, yeast infection, worms, and nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, under expanded prescribing authority.

Ontario said it plans to position the province “as a global leader on the EV supply chain” by bringing in $16 billion in investments by global automakers and suppliers of electric vehicle materials.

Other listed projects include creating care for first responders with post-traumatic stress and mental health disorders, increasing financial support to seniors to expand the guaranteed income program, and spending an additional $202 million on homeless and indigenous housing projects.

Ontario said it would ask the federal government to defer harmonized sales tax (HST) on new, large-scale housing projects intended for housing.

Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy said Ontario was focused on a strong economy and the infrastructure needed to support growth.

“Ontario’s economy remains resilient, but the road ahead continues to be uncertain,” said Bethlenfalvy.