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Ontario plans increased spending on health care in latest budget

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TORONTO — ontario plans to start posting budget surpluses in a year, leaning heavily on booming revenues to offset increased healthcare spending — including ramping up hospitals, home care and medical workers.

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Treasury Secretary Peter Bethlenfalvy said his nearly $205 billion plan, released Thursday, shows the province can spend responsibly.

“We’re showing that it’s possible to balance a budget and at the same time get more into housing, more into highways, more into mass transit, more into trades, more into new manufacturing, more into healthcare, more into education, more.” to invest in the north. ‘ he said in the legislature.

Fiscal year beginning next month ontario expects a deficit of $1.3 billion before posting a small surplus of $200 million in 2024-25, followed by a surplus of $4.4 billion in the following fiscal year.

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Revenue officials say progress is partly due to rising revenue – ontario expects to end this year with sales of about $200 billion, more than $20 billion more than forecast at this point last year — thanks to higher-than-expected inflation and the economic recovery.

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But these windfalls don’t translate into new affordability benefits in times of high inflation, beyond promoting a program for low-income seniors.

Bethlenfalvy said the government has not waited for the budget to introduce measures such as a gas tax cut, a low-income tax credit and an increase in disability benefit payments.

“We do a lot of things,” he said. “It’s not just one and done.”

Marit Stiles, director of the NDP, said Ontario residents are struggling to keep up with rising costs for groceries, rent and gas, and that this budget is currently insufficient.

On the expense side of the ledger ontario continues its infrastructure-heavy plans with more than $20 billion worth of highway, hospital and transit projects. The province is also providing an additional $75 million over three years in its Skills Development Fund and $224 million to build and upgrade training centers to ensure there is a sufficient workforce to implement its construction plans .

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As the province deals with the backlog of the COVID-19 pandemic and shortages of health workers, the government is increasing hospital funding by four percent and spending more than half a billion on home care in the upcoming fiscal year.

The government pledged to inject $1 billion into the sector over three years in the last budget, and in this budget announces it will accelerate that funding with $569 million in 2023-24.

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ontario also provides an additional $425 million over three years for mental health and addiction services, including funding for community programs, youth wellness centers and support for children and adolescents with eating disorders.

The healthcare sector, like many others in the province, has experienced a particularly acute labor shortage over the past year, with hospitals citing a shortage of nurses as a reason for temporarily closing emergency rooms.

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The budget includes $200 million to address immediate staffing shortages, including a program that puts healthcare students to work in hospitals to gain experience and a supervised hands-on experience program for internationally trained nurses.

The province has also seen high patient traffic in emergency rooms and paramedics waiting longer to offload ambulance patients. The situation became so critical at times over the past year that many communities experienced periods when ambulances were unavailable to respond to emergencies. The province is adding $51 million to a special offload nurse program over three years to free up paramedics.

Another $22 million will be used to hire up to 200 staff to mentor, supervise and train new nurses. Also, $15 million will be spent to keep 100 mid- to late-career nurses on the job, though officials didn’t specify how that money would be used for staff retention.

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ontario is also investing $80 million over three years to strengthen the future of healthcare workforce by increasing enrollment in post-secondary nursing programs. The province is also adding 154 postgraduate medical training positions and 100 medical student positions.

The household reveals that ontario will spend $72 million in the coming year to expand publicly funded procedures in private clinics – a plan the government says will help reduce wait times but critics say undermines the public health system.

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There are few new household affordability measures, but the government is expanding the guaranteed annual income scheme, which offers payments to low-income seniors. The government plans to introduce new criteria that would see about 100,000 more seniors eligible for the program from July 2024, and the benefit will be linked to inflation.

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ontario also points to inflation as a reason for increasing reserves on the books. This budget has $1 billion in reserve, but that increases to $4 billion in 2025-26.

“These increases reflect ontario‘s commitment to maintaining a prudent and flexible budget that can respond to heightened economic uncertainty, particularly higher levels of inflation and the impact of higher interest rates on the economy,” the government’s budget reads.

ontarioReal GDP is projected to increase by just 0.2 percent in 2023, although the rate is expected to rise in subsequent years.

The province’s emergency fund for 2023-24 is set at $4 billion. With the end of this fiscal year fast approaching, about $1.75 billion of this year’s emergency fund remains untapped. ontarioThe state’s fiscal watchdog has criticized what he called the government’s unusually large emergency funds, saying that this type of accounting is not transparent.

Net debt is expected to exceed $400 billion for the first time next year.

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