Today, Finance Minister Charles Sousa released the 2017 Ontario Budget: A Stronger, Healthier Ontario, which includes significant investments in health care and education. Ontario's first balanced budget since the global recession -- thanks to a strong economy and responsible fiscal management -- introduces free prescription drug coverage for everyone aged 24 and under, makes important investments to reduce wait times and improve access to care, helps students and makes life more affordable for Ontario families.
As a leader in economic growth, the Province is set to balance the budget this year and maintain a balanced budget for the next two years. A balanced budget means more funding for the programs and services people rely on most.
The balanced 2017 Budget launches OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare, a new drug benefit program that fully covers the cost of prescription medications for everyone aged 24 and under, regardless of family income. This program -- the first of its kind in Canada -- will ensure that young adults have access to universal drug coverage and parents never have to choose between paying for their children's prescription drugs and providing other essentials.
Ontario is increasing health care investments by $11.5 billion over the next three years. The 2017 balanced Budget plan includes a new $7-billion booster shot to health care, building on the commitment made in the 2016 Budget. This investment will improve access to care, expand mental health and addiction services, and enhance the experience and recovery of patients. It includes $1.3 billion to further reduce wait times.
With the balanced 2017 Budget, Ontario is committing to several new major hospital projects across the province, adding to the 34 underway. An additional $9-billion capital investment over 10 years will provide faster access to care and help to meet the needs of the growing aging population.
The Province is expanding home and community care programs, including home nursing, personal support and physiotherapy services, with an additional investment of $250 million this year. Family and friends caring for loved ones will be better supported through access to respite care, education and training, and a new Ontario Caregiver Tax Credit.
Ontario's new Dementia Strategy will improve and better coordinate services for those living with dementia and their caregivers by providing more than $100 million over three years.This will include funding to expand provincewide access to community programs and other investments to enhance access to care, information and support when a diagnosis is made.
With an additional investment of $6.4 billion over three years, the balanced 2017 Budget reflects the government's commitment to help learners reach their full potential by supporting them from full-day kindergarten to postsecondary education and beyond.
The Province continues to construct new schools and renew existing ones to create nurturing environments where children can learn and grow. The Province is providing almost $16 billion over 10 years to help build and improve schools.
The government is rolling out the new Ontario Student Assistance Program, which means free tuition for more than 210,000 students in postsecondary education starting this fall.
Ontario's new Career Kick-Start Strategy will provide nearly $190 million over three years to create 40,000 new work-related opportunities for students and recent graduates to give them the experience they need to help land a good job.
With the balanced 2017 Budget, Ontario is ensuring it remains at the forefront of research and development in transformative technologies that will lead tomorrow's growth. In doing so, Ontario's new investments in artificial intelligence, fifth-generation wireless technology, advanced computing, autonomous vehicles and quantum technologies will make the province's economy more innovative and create more well-paying jobs.
To make everyday life more affordable, the balanced 2017 Budget is strengthening the public services that matter most to people while lowering costs.
The Province is helping 100,000 more children get affordable, quality licensed child care. In 2017-18, Ontario will support child care for 24,000 more children up to four years old through new fee subsidy spaces and support for new licensed child care spaces in schools. The government will continue to work with schools and municipalities to fund the expansion of school-, community- and home-based licensed care that is convenient, flexible and in line with parents' needs.
The government is also taking action to make housing more affordable for homebuyers and renters with Ontario's Fair Housing Plan. This plan introduces a comprehensive package of measures to help more people find affordable homes, as well as increase supply, protect buyers and renters, and bring stability to the real estate market.
These proposed measures include a new non-resident speculation tax of 15 per cent on the price of homes in the Greater Golden Horseshoe purchased by non-Canadian citizens, non-permanent residents and non-Canadian corporations buying properties that contain at least one and not more than six single-family residences.
The plan also proposes to expand rent control to all private rental units -- including those built after 1991 -- and to empower Toronto and potentially other municipalities to introduce a tax on vacant homes to encourage owners to sell or rent them.
The government is committed to lowering household electricity bills by 25 per cent, on average, beginning this summer, and to holding rate increases over the next four years to inflation. In addition, the government is also proposing to lower energy costs by expanding access to natural gas to communities that do not currently have service, including rural, northern Ontario and First Nation communities.
The government is delivering on its commitment to balance the budget this year, building on a successful track record of prudent fiscal management, which has made Ontario an economic leader in Canada and the world.