Premier Doug Ford speaks in Lucan about high speed internet for rural Ontario, July 23, 2019. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News.)Premier Doug Ford speaks in Lucan about high speed internet for rural Ontario, July 23, 2019. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News.)

Ford government plans to spend $198B in pre-campaign budget

The Ontario government has tabled a pre-election budget that includes plans to spend billions on highways, public transit and hospitals.

A 241-page document loaded with $198-billion in expenditures over the next decade, including $20-billion in 2022 alone, was released by the Progressive Conservatives on Thursday.

The budget, set to serve as the Tories' campaign platform, projects Ontario will be in a $19.9-billion deficit this year and won't come to balance until 2027-28.

Included in the document, titled Ontario's Plan to Build, are five main spending pillars which include:

• Rebuilding Ontario's Economy

• Working for Workers

• Building Highways and Key Infrastructure

• Keeping Costs Down

• A Plan to Stay Open

Over $158.8-billion of the planned funds is pledged towards infrastructure projects for Ontario highways, transit, including expanding GO rail services to London, hospitals and other health infrastructure.

"The people of Ontario deserve a government that has a real plan to build," said Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy. "Our government's budget is Premier Ford's vision and our plan to cut through the excuses and act right away on the priorities of the people of Ontario."

Other measures mentioned include a new, $1,500 Ontario Seniors Care at Home Tax Credit, aimed to help with the costs of medical devices, dentures and nurse's visits. The province said it also plans to enhance the Low-Income Individuals and Families Tax Credit, allowing those making up to $50,000 annually to qualify.

Bethlenfalvy did not confirm if the document brought forward will be reintroduced if the PCs are re-elected in June. The Official Opposition New Democrats are expressing concerns, criticizing that the document fails to mention adequate investments into provincial services such as health care, long-term care and education.

"Families are struggling with long painful waits for health care. Our parents and grandparents are living in horrible conditions in broken long-term care and home care systems. And working folks are stretching every dollar to try to keep up with skyrocketing prices — for homes, food, gas and more," said Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. "It's clearer than ever that Doug Ford will keep choosing his buddies over the rest of us, and people will keep paying the price."

The province's real gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 4.3 percent last year, and employment rose by 4.9 per cent in 2021. The PCs project Ontario will return to a surplus position two years earlier than forecast in the 2021 Budget. Over the medium term, the government projects steadily declining deficits of $19.9-billion in 2022–23, $12.3-billion in 2023–24, and $7.6 billion in 2024–25.

Ontarians will head to polling stations in just over five weeks for the 2022 general provincial election on June 2.

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