How the 2016 Ontario budget affects you

Ontario's 2016 budget was tabled on Feb. 25 at Queen's Park.

Ontario’s 2016 budget was tabled on Feb. 25 at Queen’s Park.

While free tuition for students from low-income families may be the highlight from the 2016 Ontario budget delivered Feb. 25, it’s not the only aspect of the budget that will affect students. From booze in grocery stores to an increase in cigarette taxes, here are some of the ways the 346-page spending plan could affect you:

If you’re looking for a job…

You’ll find the outlook better as Ontario’s unemployment rate continues to drop. The government predicts an upwards of 300,000 by 2019. The $137-billion earmarked for infrastructure (including roads, bridges, public transit, hospitals and schools) over the next 10 years is expected to support around 110,000 jobs annually.

If you have a car…

You’ll soon be spending more on gas, as prices increase 4.3 cents per litre due to the Liberal’s new cap-and-trade plan, a program increasing fuel and energy costs, that is expected to bring in $1.9 billion per year starting 2017. Money from the program will go toward initiatives that will cut greenhouse gases and promote clean technology.

You’ll save money when you take your car for its Drive Clean emissions test. The province has eliminated the $30 fee for this mandatory test, which most owners complete once every two years to ensure their vehicle meets Ontario’s emissions standards.

If you take transit in Toronto…

Funding for public transportation initiatives like the $13.5 billion designated for Metrolinx’s regional express rail plan will mean faster transit and more trains for Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area commuters. GO trains will be more frequent on the Lakeshore and Barrie lines, and electrified lines will help Toronto’s proposed SmartTrack line, which would add a heavy rail line from the Kitchener GO tracks to the Pearson airport, but the budget doesn’t explicitly state any other funding for the project.

If you smoke…

In an effort to dissuade Ontarians from smoking, cigarettes will cost $3 more per carton starting in 2017. Tax on tobacco will continue to increase annually at the inflation rate, with an expected $5 million in revenue going toward services to help people quit smoking.

If you like wine…

Stock up now, because it’s about to get more expensive. The government is looking into raising the minimum price of wine sold at LCBO. The current floor price is about $6.10 for a 750-millilitre bottle and will be raised to $7.95 in the next three years. Starting this June, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) will be allowed to increase its markup on wine by two percentage points, followed by another two percentage points next year and the year after.

But while wine may be more expensive, you’ll soon find it more readily available. Since the Ontario government promised to bring beer into grocery stores last year, 60 grocers across the province can now sell it. This number is expected to rise to 150 by 2017. Wine will be available in 70 grocery stores by next fall, which will eventually increase to 300 stores. You’ll also be able to buy your booze online or with your smartphone by mid-2016, as the provincial government promised to support the LCBO in creating an e-commerce store that will allow for home delivery and in-store pickup.

If you like to know what’s in your food…

You’ll find it easier to count calories while eating out. Starting January 2017, restaurant chains with 20 or more outlets will have to include calorie counts on its menus, as well as a contextual statement about what constitutes a healthy number of calories. While restaurants are already required by law to make calorie counts available to customers, this amendment would require that information to be printed close to the food or drink listing so that outlets can’t bury the information in its menu’s fine print.

 

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