The 2017 Ontario Budget has suggested some proposals which are expected to have substantial effects on the lives of Ontarians. This budget is a balanced budget and this trend of a balanced budget is expected to continue for the next two years. A balanced budget will be beneficial for the Ontario economy. The province has eliminated a deficit of more than $19 billion at the height of the recession. The net debt-to-GDP ratio was 37.8 per cent in 2016-17, which is predicted to decline. A lower net debt-to-GDP ratio can be a positive indicator of the health for the province's economy.
One of the highlights of this budget is the launch of OHIP+, which allows free prescription drugs for people under 25 regardless of their family income. This radical proposal will be very beneficial for young people and families with children. It will lead to healthier children and young adults, which may have positive effects on school attendance and performance, and contribute towards a young and healthy workforce. Investments on the future citizens of the province will definitely pay rich rewards in both the short and long runs.
Another noticeable highlight of the budget is the proposed reduction of hydro costs by 25 per cent. The high level of hydro bills has been a concern for both individuals and businesses in Ontario. A decrease in hydro costs will benefit 500,000 small businesses and farms, approximately. Lower hydro bills will decrease their cost of operations and may improve their businesses, leading to higher business activity in Ontario.
The budget has proposed a 15 per cent tax on properties bought by non-Canadians. This proposal will be judicious in reducing the effect of speculation in the Ontario real-estate market. Also, real estate prices have been increasing significantly in Toronto. The proposed Non-Resident Speculation Tax (NRST) may dampen the price increase as it will make it more expensive for non-Canadians to purchase property. It may stem real estate bubble and help Canadians to afford properties in Ontario.
Health care has received attention in this budget. The budget proposes an additional investment of $7 billion over the next three years compared to last year's budget. This will reduce wait times, access to care and improve patient experience. Investments in health care will improve the health of Ontarians and lead to a healthy population and workforce. This will improve the quality of life of Ontarians as well as make positive impacts on the Ontario economy. Also, the budget proposes an additional $9 billion in new capital grants over 10 years in the construction of several new major hospital projects. This will improve access to health care. Again, the needs of a growing aging population will be better met with this investment.
Education is very important for Ontarians and the budget proposes investment to the sector. It has proposed allocation of almost $16 billion over 10 years to help build and improve schools. Also, the Ontario Student Assistance Program has been revamped. The new program will allow 210,000 students in postsecondary education across the province to attend for free. As expenses can be a hurdle for people to access education, particularly postsecondary education, this is a very prudent program. More people can access education, which will lead to more educated Ontarians and a more educated workforce. Investments on education are predicted to benefit the province socially and economically in the short and long runs.
Ontario has proposed investments of more than $190 billion over a 13-year period in public infrastructure. The largest infrastructure investment in its history, it started in 2014-15 and invests in building child-care spaces, hospitals, public transit, highways and roads. This massive investment is predicted to generate employment, improve health care, reduce cost of business and boost Ontario's economy in the short and long runs.
In Ontario, job growth is quite robust. It is expected to increase by 1.3 per cent, or 94,000 jobs in 2017 and 900,000 jobs between 2010 and 2020. These job growth figures are impressive and this budget will certainly play a role in making it a reality. This balanced budget is an ambitious budget with important allocations to education, health care and infrastructure spending. It is predicted to pay important rewards in terms of better education and health care, higher employment and improved quality of life for Ontarians in the short-run to the long-run.
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