Ontario's 2010 budget is focusing on education, job growth in the North and salary freezes to help manage the deficit.
The budget proposes investments that will help 20,000 more students go to college or university this September and create jobs and boost economic growth in northern Ontario.
The budget also proposes cost-cutting measures, including extending the salary freeze for members of provincial parliament from one to three years and freezing salaries for government workers. These measures would help redirect up to $750 million towards sustaining schools, hospitals and other public services, stated the budget.
The budget forecasts a deficit of $21.3 billion for 2009-2010, down from the $24.7-billion deficit forecast published in the fall economic update. The government's plan is to cut the deficit in half in five years and eliminate it in eight years.
Highlights from the budget:
• Extend the current salary freeze for members of provincial parliament from one year to three years.
• Freeze the compensation structures of non-bargained political and Legislative Assembly staff for two years.
• Freeze compensation structures in the broader public sector and Ontario Public Service for all non-bargained employees for two years.
• Managing the growth of health care spending at a responsible rate, including proposing reforms to Ontario's drug system that would facilitate lower generic drug prices.
Jobs and growth in the North
• $45 million over the next three years for a new project-based skills training program to help Aboriginal peoples and northern Ontarians participate in and benefit from emerging economic development opportunities.
• A proposed permanent Northern Ontario Energy Credit to help eligible low- to middle-income northern residents with the higher energy costs they face.
• Investing $310 million to add 20,000 new spaces to colleges and universities this September.
• Aggressively promoting Ontario post-secondary institutions abroad to attract more international students.
• Implementing full-day learning for four- and five-year-olds, beginning in September 2010.
• At full implementation, full-day learning will employ up to an additional 3,800 teachers and 20,000 early childhood educators and benefit about 247,000 children.
Child care investments
• Providing $63.5 million a year to preserve 8,500 child care spaces.
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