Ford turns Ontario license plates Tory blue

Ontario's Tories don't plan to balance books until after election

Ontario Budget 2019 to allow purchase of gambling tickets on smartphones

Doug Ford's Progressive Conservative government released its designs for Ontario's new license plates April 11, including a slogan that will replace the former "Yours to Discover" motto, which has graced plates in the province for 37 years.

PATH TO BALANCE: The Tories plan to take five years to balance the books, which means the deficit will not be eliminated before the next election.

Calling the change "long overdue", Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said Thursday that Ontario will expand retail sales of beer and wine to convenience stores, "big box" retailers, and an increased number of grocery stores.

The government is also loosening rules around alcohol, allowing municipalities to legalize drinking in parks, letting licensed establishments start serving alcohol at 9 a.m., permitting happy hour advertising, and legalizing tailgate parties, which usually occur in the parking lots at stadiums and arenas. "These are numbers that you can trust".

Ford's budget makes no serious effort to lower the province's debt-to-GDP ratio, which many economic experts consider a more important measure of fiscal discipline, or lack of it, than deficits and debt.

Premier Doug Ford's PCs will press the pause button on a scheduled increase to the wine tax enacted by the previous Liberal government.

Following longstanding conventions, the budget was unveiled in advance to media under embargo in a lockup that lifted after the markets closed in the afternoon.

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Numerous wallet-friendly initiatives contained in the 2019 Ontario budget had been previously revealed, including a 10 per cent cut to post-secondary tuition and a tax credit for low-income individuals of up to $850.

It says the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities will consult with the post-secondary sector on how to deal with the issue. It's hard for anyone to figure out by reading the entire 343-page budget exactly what specific services will be cut.

Fedeli announced a new "child-care access tax credit" by criticizing the previous government's "outdated "government knows best" approach", while asking the question, "Why don't we let parents decide what childcare options look best for them?"

The government is also introducing a child-care tax credit and promising to create 30,000 child-care spaces over five years.

Gambling also got its share of attention this year's budget.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Fedeli's response was insufficient. "It's a bad budget".

New Democrats are sounding the alarm about what they call deep and cruel cuts in the Ontario budget.

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In 2023-24, after the next election, Fedeli's budget projects a mere $300 million surplus. Will it bring perceptible cuts to public services?

In a statement, Ford said that the province has sent "a clear message to the world that Ontario is open for business".

In a no-surprise budget, the Ford government made no grandiose and sweeping funding commitments to Northern Ontario.

The budget outlines the province's plan to reduce emissions, waste and litter, as well as improve municipal wastewater systems and increase conservation for at-risk species and the Great Lakes, all while cutting the Ministry of Environment's operating costs by almost a third.

"The government is planning to further reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion in the 2019-20 fiscal year, lowering it to $10.3 billion", it said.

"It is time to usher Ontario out of the gambling prohibition era and treat the people of Ontario as adults by allowing them to bet on the outcome of a single sporting event", the government stressed.

The Treasury Board Secretariat's coffers more-than-doubled - a rate higher than any other ministry - increasing by roughly $1.1 billion. The budget also commits to an expansion of dental services for low-income seniors through mobile dental buses and expanded public health units. Horwath says the spending doesn't amount to much because it doesn't match inflation rates.

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