Highlights of the 2017 Ontario Budget (PDAD&C #97)

From: Andrew Thomson, Chief of Government Relations
Date: April 28, 2017
Re: Highlights of the 2017 Ontario Budget (PDAD&C #97)

The 2017 Ontario budget returns the province to budgetary balance for the first time since 2008-09. With the deficit eliminated, the government has some fiscal room to invest in priorities such as health care, education, and cost of living measures. Budget 2017 focused primarily on these areas, with announcements of $11.5 billion in investments for health care.

For post-secondary education, the institutional investments are somewhat more modest. No additional investments have been provided to support enrolment growth at this time. However, the Budget announced new improvements to OSAP, building on the modernizations and enhancements announced in 2015 and 2016. These new changes include an increase of the income threshold for repayment of provincial portion of OSAP; new supports for Indigenous students; and positive changes to the treatment of RESP funds.

The Budget affirmed experiential learning and the Highly Skilled Workforce initiative as signature priorities of the government. A new $190 million Career Kick-Start Strategy was announced in the week before the Budget. These funds will support 40,000 new opportunities for students in K-12, postsecondary students, and recent graduates. Part of this strategy will include a new $68 million competitive fund to support “work-related experiences,” with funds available for postsecondary institutions and employers.

In addition, the Budget announced $15 million in support for Mitacs’ Accelerate and Talent Edge programs, which are recognized as successful, high impact approaches to facilitate talent-centric research and training. This announcement delivers the provincial match to leverage the recently announced federal contributions to Mitacs programming.

Finally, the Budget highlights several signature investments in the Business Growth Initiative, a $650 million plan over five years announced in the 2016 Budget to support R&D in transformative technologies that will help Ontario shift to the new economy. The $50 million investment in the Vector Institute and an $80 million investment in a new Autonomous Vehicle Network are part of this initiative.

Detail on these announcements is provided below, and additional information can be found in the Ontario Budget papers. We will share further detail about these programs as it becomes available.

Student Assistance

  • Further enhancements to OSAP to be implemented in 2018-19 including:
    • Exempt savings from RESPs in OSAP assessments;
    • Exempt Indigenous students from the requirement to make a personal contribution of $3,000 and exempt Postsecondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) funding from OSAP assessments;
    • Increase the minimum salary upon which the provincial portion of OSAP repayment is required from $25,000 to $35,000.

Experiential Learning

  • Career Kick Start Strategy of $190 million over three years, including:
    • $68 million over three years to establish a new Career Ready Fund for postsecondary institutions and employers to create work-related opportunities for students and recent graduates;
    • $15 million over 3 years for 3,000 new internships through the Mitacs Accelerate program, and 140 internships and fellowships through the Mitacs Talent Edge program, matching federal investments;
    • Renewal of funds for the Ontario Centres of Excellence TalentEdge program to support 56 additional fellowships and 84 additional internships per year.

Business Growth Initiative

  • $650 Business Growth Initiative (previously announced fund), including:
    • $50 million for the Vector Institute (previously announced);
    • $130 million over 5 years for 5G, including $67 million in Evolution of networked Services through a Corridor in Quebec and Ontario for Research and Innovation, and $63 million for Centre of Excellence in Next Generation Networks;
    • $75 million over 5 years for an Advanced Research Computing and Big Data Strategy (previously announced);
    • $80 million over 5 years to create the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network in partnership with Ontario Centres of Excellence. This will support industry-led R&D projects, create sites to develop, test, and validate new technology.