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Rapid Recap: 2023 Ontario Fall Economic Statement

November 2, 2023- This afternoon, Ontario’s Finance Minister, Peter Bethlenfalvy, presented the 2023 Fall Economic Statement. The Minister emphasized a responsible and targeted approach to ensure a stable financial future for Ontario while also promising a balanced budget by 2025-2026. The statement, however, does not mention affordability nor contain any new measures to help Ontarians struggling with high inflation beyond the gas tax extension.

Health mentions in today’s Fall Economic Statement were limited to previously announced commitments, including:

  • Increases in prescribing rights for pharmacists for 19 common ailments;

  • The lowered age eligibility from 50 to 40 for publicly funded mammograms;

  • The plan to add 58,000 new long-term care beds across the province and build new Behavioural Specialized Units in long‐term care homes;

  • Continued investments in-home care as part of the total investment of $1B over three years;

  • Investments in provincial infrastructure for a mental health and addictions continuum of care;

  • Investments to improve access to surgeries, diagnostic imaging, emergency care and mental health services for children and youth;

  • The more than 50 hospital capital projects across Ontario that are in progress; and

  • Ongoing or pre-planned investments in health human resources programs, including a $200M in 2023-24 to address immediate health care staffing shortages and investments in education and the creation of 100 additional undergraduate seats, beginning in 2023, and 154 postgraduate medical training spots, starting in 2024.

The Fall Economic Statement did not include any new allocations for health care spending. The primary focus was on expanding key non-health related infrastructure projects — such as highways and transit — and celebrating the more than 170,000 net new jobs created in the first nine months of the year.

New Announcements

Today’s statement included government commitments to:

  • Expand its proposed Clean Electricity and Clean Technology Investment Tax Credits;

  • Enhance the Ontario Focused Flow-Through Share Tax Credit

  • Create an arms-length infrastructure bank with a mandate to help build major projects in affordable housing, health care and transportation;

  • Build key highway projects to help alleviate gridlock, expand and build better public transportation options, and invest in transit-oriented communities;

  • Extend the gas and fuel tax cut until June 30, 2024, and

  • Remove the eight percent provincial portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) on qualifying new purpose-built rental housing.

The Impact on Health Care

With fall respiratory season well underway in Ontario and the media constantly reporting on staffing shortages and clogged emergency departments across the province, Premier Ford and Minister Jones will need to reassure health stakeholders that despite the lack of new spending in today’s announcement, they are making progress on addressing the challenges facing the health system.

The biggest takeaway from today’s announcement is Ontario’s new creation of a new arms-length (board-governed) agency called the Ontario Infrastructure Bank. The government is proposing to provide $3B in initial funding to the agency to enable it to invest in large-scale infrastructure projects across the province and to attract institutional investors to help build critical infrastructure. With a mandate to help build major projects in affordable housing, health care and transportation, the bank’s initial focus will be on new long-term care homes, energy infrastructure, affordable housing, municipal and community infrastructure and transportation. Interestingly, hospitals are not included in the initial focus for the infrastructure bank, even with skyrocketing construction costs for the hospital capital projects across Ontario.

While today’s announcement was light on health care funding or new announcements, we are still anticipating the second round of regulations and a first call for applications for the government’s new community and surgical diagnostic sites under Bill 60. Advocacy and strong budget submissions ahead of Budget 2024-2025 will be necessary for health stakeholders who are seeking to gain net new funding in a constrained fiscal environment.

Further Reading

Read the Fall Economic Statement here.

Read the News Release here.

Submit 2024 Budget consultations here.