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Ontario 2008 Budget Summary

Wednesday, March 26th 2008 11:07:00am

2008 Ontario Budget Summary
“Growing for a Stronger Ontario”

March 25, 2008

Prepared by: Environmental Communication Options

Budget Theme

The Ontario government is anticipating a continued economic slowdown of the Ontario economy due to the high price of oil, a stagnant U.S. economy and the strong Canadian dollar. The government expects a surplus in
2008-09 of $600 million.

The people of Ontario are the greatest resource so the government will focus on improving employment
opportunities and skills through programs and funding initiatives. The core areas to benefit from funding include:

• Children and Youth
• Workers of all ages
• Workers facing change
• Recent immigrants to Ontario
• Unemployed and underemployed

Investing in Skills and Knowledge

A $1.5 billion, three year investment in the Skills to Job Action Plan which will focus on retraining and education for unemployed individuals. ‘Second Career Strategy’ will be the centerpiece of the program and will see $355 million go to retraining 20,000 unemployed workers over three years. Apprenticeship expansion will also get $75 million over the same period (see Fig. 1.1 for case reference).

Infrastructure

The government will set aside $1 billion towards new municipal infrastructure investments in 2007-08. This includes $400 million for roads and bridges, $497 million for public transit in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton and $100 million to refurbish existing social housing units, including improving their energy efficiency.

Business

This budget proposes $750 million in tax measures spread over 4 years to help the manufacturing and resource sectors. They will eliminate and rebate the Capital Tax retroactive to January 1, 2007. They will also accelerate the Business Education Tax for Northern businesses.

Environment for Innovation

The budget institutes a 10 year Ontario income tax exemption for new corporations that commercialize intellectual property that has been developed by qualifying Canadian universities, colleges and research institutes. They will also invest $250 million into the Ontario Research Fund over 5 years ($50 million a year).

Ontario’s Natural Environment

The government considers the environment an essential element in a successful and prosperous Ontario. As such, it
will implement these initiatives:

• Provide $41 million over 4 years to support the development of toxics legislation and reduction strategy that will require companies that emit toxic substances to reduce their emissions over time.

• Work with Cancer Care Ontario and Ontario Medical Association to define and target the number of cancer causing agents released into the environment.

• The Ministry of the Environment will work with the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and Ministry of Research and Innovation on initiatives and strategies to support the development and installation of new technologies to reduce toxic chemical dependence.

• Setting aside $10 million over 4 years to support a ban on the use of non-essential pesticides, which will foster the development and sale of green alternatives. Funding is to be included in outreach, education and compliance applications.

• Working with Waste Diversion Ontario to enhance household waste diversion by introducing a new Municipal Hazardous program. Target will double diversion rates over the next five years and provide nearly $5 million over 4 years to additional waste inspectors to increase recycling compliance at industrial, commercial and institutional facilities.

• Almost $2 million over 2 years to remove 300,000 tires illegally stored in Middlesex County and review the inventory for scrap tires in the province.

• Provide $56 million over 2 years to eliminate polychlorinated biphenyl contaminated soil stored in London. An additional $7 million will be invested in 2008-09 to clean up other sites.

• Set aside nearly $31million over 4 years for new inspection resources and staff.

• Ministry of Environment budget expected to increase by 14% in 2008-09.

• Provide more than $12 million over 4 years for additional staff at MOE and over $23 million in 2007-08 capital for 19 Conservation Authorities for technical studies to support the development of source protection plans required under the Clean Water Act, 2006.

• Invest $10 million in MOE in 2008-09 to modernize their lab and monitoring equipment. $7.3 million will be spent over 2 years on performing this task at the Toronto site.

• Provide the Ministry of Natural Resources with a total of $27 million over 4 years to purchase ecologically sensitive lands for conservation purposes.

• $20 million over 4 years for environmental education programs and give $6.5 million over the same period for new resources to prepare teachers to teach new environmental curriculum

Improving the Quality of Life

Over three years, they will invest $135 million into the Poverty Reduction Strategy to provide better dental care for low income families and inject $32 million over 3 years, into the Student Nutrition Program.

A new property tax grant amounting to $1 billion over 5 years is proposed for low income and senior homeowners.

They will expand the Wait Time Strategy to include emergency departments and hire 9,000 more nurses by 2011.

The Budget proposes extending the Retail Sales Tax (RST) exemption on ENERGY STAR® household appliances and light bulbs for an additional 13 months and implementing other “initiatives” to address climate change, including public transit.

Ontario Electricity Infrastructure

As part of a 20 year plan, the government is committed to replacing the coal fired generation by 2014 and reduce electricity demand by 6,300 megawatts (or about 20% of predicted future peak demand) by doubling the use of renewable energy. Once completed, the replacement of the coal plants will result in a reduction of up to 30 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions – the single largest reduction in Canada.

The government will consult will municipalities, MPAC and the energy generation sector to ensure that property tax treatment of renewable energy facilities remains fair and consistent and continues to promote the development of green energy capacity. This consultation process will end in the fall of 2008.

Building on the success of the Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program which has seen 279 contracts and 1,100 MW as of February 2008, the government will continue to consult with key stakeholders (industry and agency) to improve and expand the model to other jurisdictions.

Nuclear

The 20 year plan also calls for the provincial nuclear energy capacity to sustain an output of 14,000 MW.

The first steps have been taking and 4 international companies are now in the process of being considered for building the new nuclear technology.

Aboriginal Opportunities

The Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs will spend on average $600 million on incentives and programs across government to improve the quality of life of Ontario’s First Nations peoples and to facilitate opportunities.

These include:

• $300 million for children and social services
• $85 million for health care services
• $80 million for justice and policing initiatives
• $45 million for education and training

The government will increase funding to the Akwe:go program by $4 million annually. This program provides at risk urban Aboriginal youth and families with culturally relevant and community based supports (support circles, individual counseling, after school activities).

They will also provide $5 million more in the 2008-09 school year for education. This will support learning and achievement for Aboriginal students and help raise awareness about First Nations, Métis and Inuit culture.

Finally, they will provide $1.5 million to be matched by the Heart and Stroke Association of Ontario to establish a Research Chair in Aboriginal and Rural Health at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine - a first of its kind in Canada.

The government will continue to develop and grow the relationships it has with First Nations across the province and explore ways to partner strategically. One proposal includes the feasibility of providing loan guarantees to help First Nations businesses develop renewable electricity generation projects.

Species and Natural Habitat

The budget will establish an invasive species centre in Sault St. Marie with $15 million over 4 years.

Supplementary

The Ontario Budget 2008 will:

• Provide $100 million to rehabilitate social housing units across the province. Housing providers COULD use this funding for energy efficiency improvements.

• Allocate $30 million over 4 years to support consultations via the Northern Table on substantial land use planning and resource management in the far north, a vital carbon sink.

• Propose extending an RST exemption on qualifying ENERGY STAR household appliances and light bulbs to the end of 2009. This includes non-commercial refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers (including combination models), freezers, dehumidifiers, room air conditioners, light bulbs and decorative light strings. The government wishes to extend the exemption to appliances leased or rented on or before August 31, 2009 and delivered on or before September 30, 2009 and to include qualifying light bulbs purchased on or before August 31, 2009.
• Bikes and related safety equipment RST exemption is proposed to extend to purchases made on or before December 31, 2010.

• Contribute $25 million toward a centre of research and innovation in the bio-economy to be located in Thunder Bay.

• Provide $14 million per year for the Pick Ontario Freshness Strategy and the Ontario Farmers Market Initiative, to encourage Ontarians to buy locally.

• Contribute $7.5 million to the University of Western Ontario to support interdisciplinary research into chemicals and fuels made from agricultural resources.

• Provide nearly $1 million per year for 4 years to the Ministry of the Environment to enhance modeling, monitoring, and research into climate change.

• Consult with municipalities, MPAC and energy sector on how to ensure proper and competitive property tax structure is in place for renewable energy.

For further details on any of the information contained within this release, please contact e|c|o at 416-972-7401.

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