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Ontario budget analysis 2024

4 MIN READ
The Ontario Government tabled its $214-billion budget on March 26, 2024.

The Ontario Budget serves as a critical point of reference for non-profits that informs planning, advocacy, and day-to-day operations. United Way East Ontario remains committed to advocating for the needs of our communities and ensuring that essential services are adequately supported.

Here is the big picture overview of what we saw in the “Building a Better Ontario” budget:

By Preeti Prabhu, Senior Director of Public Policy, Government and Stakeholder Relations, United Way East Ontario
  1. Revenue and expenses: The budget outlines a $9.8 billion deficit that is triple the year before. There is a forecasted one per cent increase in revenue and a three per cent increase in expenses compared to the previous fiscal year. (Page 8)

     

  2. Priorities and spending patterns: The focus appears to be on cutting taxes and investing in infrastructure and manufacturing through subsidies and recruitment. (Page 8)

     

  3. Non-profit sector and social infrastructure: There is a base funding increase for various ministries ranging from one to three per cent. While this an increase in spending compared to previous years, experts and non-profit leaders say that it still lags compared to current inflation and population increases. (Page 8)

     

  4. Economic and fiscal backdrop: Ontario’s budgetary balance is expected to worsen in the coming years due to higher expenses and lower revenues, with aims to balance the budget by 2026/2027 with a small surplus. The outlook for 2024 only projects 0.3 per cent GDP growth and a forecasted unemployment rate of 6.7 per cent. (Pages 5 and 6)


    The labour market is expected to weaken in 2024, leading to reduced hiring and slower job creation, with the unemployment rate forecasted to stay above six per cent until 2027. Fiscal decisions appear contradictory to traditional conservative principles, as expenses are set to increase despite lower economic growth and revenues.
     

Here are the key things that we advocated for through the pre-budget consultations, compared with what we saw in this year’s budget: 

1) Affordable Housing

While housing start forecasts have improved slightly, they still fall short of the government’s target of 1.5 million new homes by 2031, exacerbating pressure on the housing market due to population growth outpacing new housing builds.  

While the budget includes infrastructure and housing initiatives funding, more comprehensive measures are needed to address the root causes of homelessness and housing instability.   

Ottawa faces a significant shortage of affordable housing, with 12,000 households on the waitlist for social housing. Data shows the estimated housing supply needed to address housing shortages and population predictions for East Ontario are 100,100 new homes for Ottawa, 9,000 new homes for Prescott-Russell, 7,000 new homes for Lanark and 4,300 new homes for Renfrew. By investing in supportive housing programs and rental assistance initiatives, Ontario can help ensure that everyone has a place to call home. 

The 2024 budget includes long-term care beds in the count of new homes built which skews the perception of progress toward addressing the housing shortage.  Long-term care beds serve a specific healthcare need for elderly or disabled individuals requiring specialized care. They are not traditional residential homes or housing units meant for the general population.

But there is good news, based on our recommendations from the Bringing Affordable Housing Home report led by Ontario United Ways.

Marking Progress on Housing Supply Graph_Ontario Budget 2024.
2024 Ontario Budget - Page 133
The joint submission from Ontario United Ways was referenced by the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs in their pre-budget consultation report:

The Committee heard that Ontario should take a more active role in acquiring, building, or maintaining affordable housing, including through its funding to municipalities.[57] … A joint submission from Ontario United Ways suggested that the Province launch a non-profit rental acquisition program to reduce the net loss of affordable housing units, while also giving non-profits the opportunity to build on government-owned surplus or under-utilized lands to add new housing units.

2) Mental health and addictions

The provincial government will invest an additional $396 million in mental health and addictions over three years. While these investments are commendable steps towards improving mental health care accessibility across the province, there remains a pressing need for increased funding to support community-based mental health services provided by non-profit organizations.

3) Employment support programs

Investments in skills development and job training are critical for building a resilient workforce. However, ensuring equitable access to these opportunities, particularly for marginalized populations, requires targeted support from the government and collaboration with non-profit organizations. The government has invested over $1 billion in skilled trades and will provide an additional $16.5 million annually over the next three years. (Page 68)

4) Ontario 211 and emergency support services

We continue to advocate for support for Ontario 211. The government has allocated $5 million to aid the province in preparing for natural disasters and emergencies. An increase to funding will be needed to enhance local emergency services and emergency preparedness in the face of increasing natural disasters. (Page 108)

Collaboration among government stakeholders, community partners, and advocates is essential for addressing funding gaps in the non-profit sector and for building stronger, more resilient communities. By working together, United Way East Ontario can help leverage our collective resources, expertise, and influence to advocate for increased funding and support for vital community services.  

This collaborative approach reflects a shared commitment to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their circumstances. We will continue to work with all levels of government, the non-profit and philanthropic sectors to improve the lives of individuals and families across Ontario.  

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The Government of Canada tabled its 2024 budget on April 16, 2024. Read our analysis on what it means for social services and people in need across East Ontario.

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