On May 2, Ontario’s new Finance Minister Charles Souse delivered his first budget – province’s $127.6 billion spending plan with projected deficit of $11.7 billion for 2013-14. Follow the link to see a full document.
The Liberal government acted upon NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s key demands in hopes of preventing a spring election. The demands included a 15 per cent auto insurance rate cut, a $260-million boost to home-care health services, a $295-million action plan to fight youth unemployment and help for people on welfare.
Despite these concessions, it is not yet clear if the NDP will support the budget. One week after introduction, Andrea Horwath, who is currently consulting the province on the budget, introduced another demand, requiring an independent “Financial Accountability Office”, modeled on the federal Parliamentary Budget Office, in order to provide oversight of provincial expenditures.
Ontario Progressive Conservatives remain committed to defeating the budget once the motion comes for a vote, most likely some time at the end of May.
In the meantime, a recent public opinion survey conducted by Forum Research demonstrated that 48 per cent of Ontarians wanted the NDP to back the Liberals with 36 per cent opposed while 16 per cent had no opinion.
With respect to REALTORS® and real estate industry, the budget included an amendment to the the Electronic Commerce Act, 2000, which would delete an exemption of electronic agreements of purchase and sale from the Act and therefore grant the agreements added legal protection. The amendment is a significant accomplishment for OREA and REALTORS® who worked hard on getting the proposal into the budget.
Other budget highlights of interest to REALTORS® include:
The Government has promised to reduce average auto insurance rates in Ontario by 15 per cent. The time line for the proposal was not specified in the budget.
The government also committed to increasing its efforts to fight auto insurance fraud. Starting June 1, 2013, additional measures with respect to fraud prevention and consumer protection will include:
- Requiring insurers to provide reasons for denying claims.
- Requiring claimants to prove attendance at health clinics.
- Penalizing service providers for overcharging insurers, etc.
The Province committed to continue delivering Ontario’s major transit project called the Big Move at a cost of over $50 billion.
The costs associated with the project will require additional funding. With this in mind, the Province committed to converting select high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in the GTA into high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes. In these lanes, vehicles with two or more occupants will continue to drive for free, whereas single drivers may choose to use these lanes for a fee.
The Province is planning to add new HOV lanes on sections of 401, 404, 410 and 427 in the GTA.
The government will also proceed with the planned extension of Highway 427 to Major Mackenzie Drive in York region.
OREA has continuously urged the government to create a reliable plan to eliminate the deficit as soon as possible since high deficits and debt can impact interest rates levels paid by consumers.
In 2013 Budget, the government remained committed to eliminating the deficit by year 2017-18. The deficit for 2012-13 is estimated to be at $9.8 billion and $11.7 billion for 2013-14.