rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Ontario Budget 2015: Throwing everything but infrastructure under the bus

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Photo: Jason Spaceman/flickr

If you just read the words, and didn't look at the numbers, Ontario's 2015 budget is a magical integration of the government's high-profile infrastructure and pension initiatives with the need to maintain the public services that Ontarians count on.

The budget devotes page after page to trumpeting the government's commitments to elementary and secondary education, post-secondary education, child care, health and poverty reduction at the same time as it highlights investments in infrastructure and the continued development of the Ontario Registered Pension Plan (ORPP). The budget even mentions homelessness as an issue that concerns the government.

Unfortunately, the story looks very different when you look at the numbers. When you look at the numbers, it is clear that everything else -- every other service that Ontarians depend on -- has been thrown under the infrastructure bus.

Elementary and secondary education spending is going up at less than the rate of inflation, and that includes the remaining cost of implementing full-day kindergarten. Postsecondary education will actually be dropping at a rate of 0.4 per cent per year on the way to budget balance. Health care is to increase at less than the rate of inflation.

The budget makes reference to its poverty reduction strategy. But the only concrete measure is social assistance benefits are being increased -- by 1 per cent, less than the rate of inflation. The numbers say that social assistance benefits -- both Ontario Works and ODSP -- are still lower by 5-7 per cent, after accounting for inflation, than they were at the end of the Harris era.

On the way to budget balance, expenditures on children and social services will increase by less than one third of the rate of inflation.

There's not much that is new on the infrastructure front. The numbers won't be changing that much. Total infrastructure investment increased from $13.3 billion to $13.5 billion between 2014-15 and 2015-16. But the priority has clearly shifted. None of the transit money listed as in the pipeline is destined for the City of Toronto. It is now clear that Toronto has spent all of its transit infrastructure expansion money on the Scarborough subway.

Taking a step back from the detail, some critical gaps are clearly evident. You'd never know from reading this budget that there is a growing consensus that Ontario's fiscal problems are on the revenue side, not the expenditure side. There's nothing in the budget to address either the current revenue gap, or the prospect of federal health funding cuts that will make that gap even wider. Tax continues to be a four-letter word, as far as the government is concerned. You'd never know from reading this budget that Ontario's investment in child care lags far behind that of Quebec. You'd never know from reading this budget that Ontario's investment in elementary and secondary education on a per-student basis lags behind that of competitor jurisdictions in the United States. You'd never know from reading this budget that Ontario's investment per student in post-secondary education is the lowest in Canada.

The sheer volume of words aside, there are four clear messages in this year's budget:

  • The overriding priority is to balance the budget by 2017-18, regardless of what happens between now and then;
  • There will be no substantial action to address the revenue side of the government's finances despite widespread agreement that it is revenue that is the key fiscal problem the government faces;
  • Infrastructure aside, every other public services gap in Ontario is being shoved to the sidelines; and
  • The thousands of Ontarians who serve the province in the public sector are expected to bear the largest share of the burden imposed by the government's commitment to meeting its budget balance target.

It is encouraging that the government is continuing to move forward with the ORPP and is clearly rethinking many of the limitations on the plan implied by its initial discussion paper. This investment in the long-term retirement income security of generations of Ontarians who are not yet elderly themselves is a critical priority.

What is most disappointing, however, is the failure of the government to make use of its majority mandate to make some of the key difficult decisions that would put Ontario's public services and its public finances on a more secure footing for the future.

Hugh Mackenzie is a CCPA research associate. Follow him on Twitter @MackHugh.

Photo: Jason Spaceman/flickr

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.