Finance minister Charles Sousa unveiled the provincial government’s budget at Queen’s Park this week. Brimming with new spending plans, this will be the Liberals’ last budget before Ontarians go to the polls on June 7.
New budget policies include $2.2 billion to make preschool free for children aged two-and-a-half years to four, $575 million for free prescription drugs for seniors, $2.1 billion to expand mental health services, along with a number of new plans that affect post-secondary students:
- Tuition billing: Introducing net tuition billing, which means students will only be billed after OSAP grants, loans and other potential aid have been subtracted from the total fees.
- Open textbooks: Supporting the creation of free online textbooks and education resources for students through the $1-million Ontario Open Textbooks Initiative.
- Education infrastructure: Providing more than $3 billion in capital grants to post-secondary institutions over the next 10 years to improve education infrastructure.
- Institution expansion: Investing in post-secondary institution expansion projects to keep up with the province’s population growth in urban areas. The project includes new university-led post-secondary sites in Markham, Brampton and Milton.
- OSAP repayment: Single students will not have to start repaying the Ontario portion of their student loans until they are earning a minimum of $35,000 a year — a $10,000 increase from the previous minimum of $25,000.
- More OSAP: Increasing OSAP awards for students from low-income families (those who make less than $90,000 a year) and for Indigenous students. Tuition is free for those earning up to $90,000.
- Cheaper transit in the GTA: All GO Transit trips within Toronto will cost Presto card users $3 per trip. As well, card users at stations such as Port Credit, Malton, Pickering, Ajax and Markham will also see fare reductions when taking GO Transit back and forth to Union Station. All GO Transit trips under 10 kilometres will cost Presto card users just $3 per trip anywhere on the GO network.
The ambitious spending plans have been applauded by the school, with Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi, responding on Twitter: “Investing in students is a critical step in generating and nurturing the talent that will drive the Ontario economy. We applaud the investments made this year in the #OntarioBudget.”
However, the billions in new spending is being criticized by Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford. He says the Liberals are buying votes with Ontarians’ own money.
“There is only one way to pay for Kathleen Wynne’s spending spree — by taking more money out of your pocket,” Ford said on Twitter.