Ontario Budget Invests in Skills Training and Infrastructure to Strengthen the Economy



    Government Creating Opportunities for Better Jobs and Stronger
    Communities

    QUEEN'S PARK, March 25 /CNW/ -

    NEWS

    The 2008 Ontario Budget is making major investments in skills training
and infrastructure while balancing the budget and enhancing business
competitiveness.

    QUOTES

    "This Budget is about making sure people have jobs and Ontario's economy
grows," said Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.
    "This Budget is about ensuring that all Ontarians have the opportunities
and skills to succeed, so that they are working in jobs that will strengthen
Ontario's economy."
    "This Budget is investing in infrastructure such as roads and public
transit, which creates jobs in the short term and strengthens our economy in
the long term."

    QUICK FACTS

    
    -   $1.5 billion, three-year Skills to Jobs Action Plan will get more
        Ontarians into well-paying jobs and into long-term training for new
        job opportunities.
           -  $355 million over three years for a Second Career Strategy that
              will help 20,000 unemployed workers make the transition to new
              careers and well-paying jobs in growing areas of the economy
                 -  For example, the Second Career Strategy would provide
                    $25,000 towards tuition and living allowance for a
                    manufacturing worker who wants to move to a skilled-
                    trades job and attends a four-semester, two-year
                    Mechanical Technician program at a college
           -  $75 million over the next three years to expand apprenticeship
              training
           -  Enhancing postsecondary student aid and investing in capital
              expansion and renewal.

    -   $1 billion in 2007-08 in new municipal infrastructure, which
        includes:
           -  $497 million for public transit in the Greater Toronto Area and
              Hamilton
           -  $400 million for roads and bridges in communities outside
              Toronto
           -  $100 million to rehabilitate social housing units, including
              energy-efficient improvements.

    -   $750 million over four years in proposed new business tax relief that
        includes:
           -  Eliminating Capital Tax retroactive to January 1, 2007 for
              manufacturing and resource firms, which would entitle them to
              $190 million in rebates
           -  A 10-year Ontario income tax exemption for new corporations
              that commercialize intellectual property developed by
              qualifying Canadian universities, colleges or research
              institutes
           -  An extension of an accelerated Capital Cost Allowance rate for
              manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment
              investments made before 2012
           -  Accelerating Business Education Tax (BET) rate cuts for
              northern businesses, resulting in total savings of more than
              $70 million over the next three years.

    -   The Budget proposes the new Property Tax Grant for Senior Homeowners,
        which would provide $1 billion over five years to help low- and
        moderate-income seniors.

    -   Early action on the McGuinty government's poverty strategy:
           -  $135 million over three years to provide better dental care to
              low-income families
           -  $32 million over three years to double funding for the Student
              Nutrition Program
           -  Two per cent increase in social assistance benefits in 2008-09.

    -   $40.4 billion in health sector spending in 2008-09, a six per cent
        increase, which includes:
           -  More than $500 million over three years, in addition to other
              investments, to move towards hiring 9,000 nurses by 2011-12
           -  $180 million over three years for hospitals to reduce emergency
              department wait times and improve patient satisfaction
           -  $53 million over the next three years to add more Family Health
              Teams
           -  $38 million over the next three years to add more nurse
              practitioner-led clinics
           -  Increasing enrolment spaces for midwives and nurse
              practitioners.

    -   Increasing spending in education to $18.8 billion, through Grants for
        Student Needs, in the 2008-09 school year to improve literacy and
        numeracy, increase graduation rates and decrease class sizes.

    -   The McGuinty government is helping postsecondary students with
        education costs. The proposed measures include:
           -  $385 million over three years for an annual Textbook and
              Technology Grant that will help every full-time university and
              college student
           -  $27 million over three years for a Distance Grant to assist
              students from rural and remote areas with travel costs to
              attend college or university.

    -   The McGuinty government is fighting climate change with investments
        in renewable energy and conservation, public transit and a proposed
        extension of the Retail Sales Tax exemption on ENERGY STAR(R)
        household appliances and light bulbs for another 13 months.

    -   There are no tax increases in this Budget. The McGuinty government is
        on track to achieve its third consecutive surplus and post six
        consecutive balanced budgets between 2005-06 and 2010-11.

    LEARN MORE

    Watch a clip of Minister Duncan delivering the Budget speech or read it in
its entirety.

    Read background information about the Budget initiatives:
    -   Strengthening Ontario's Economy by Investing in Skills
    -   Strengthening Ontario's Economy by Investing in Infrastructure
    -   Strengthening Ontario's Economy by Investing in Business and Industry
    -   Strengthening Ontario's Future by Investing in Health Care
    -   Strengthening Ontario's Economy by Investing in Education
    -   Strengthening Ontario's Economy by Investing in Northern and Rural
        Ontario
    -   Strengthening Ontario's Future by Investing in Families and Quality
        of Life
    -   Strengthening Ontario's Economy for a Prosperous Future

    Download the Budget technical papers.

    Choose from 16 languages to read highlights from the Budget.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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    2008 Ontario Budget                                         Backgrounder
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              March 25, 2008

                STRENGTHENING ONTARIO'S ECONOMY BY INVESTING
                             IN SKILLS TRAINING
    

    INVESTING IN SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE

    Ontario's skilled and highly educated workforce is a key economic
advantage and enhances Ontario's position as a destination of choice for
global investment. Many high-growth industries - such as information
technology, construction, energy and health care - face a shortage of people
with the right skills.
    The challenge is to ensure that workers with the right skills are
available when growing industries need them, while also giving unemployed
workers the retraining they need to get well-paying jobs in expanding areas of
the economy.

    $1.5 BILLION SKILLS TO JOBS ACTION PLAN

    The 2008 Budget announces a three-year $1.5 billion investment in the
Skills to Jobs Action Plan. Combined with campus renewal capital investments
included in the 2007 Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review, the McGuinty
government is investing $2 billion in the Skills to Jobs Action Plan.
    The goal is to have the greatest number of people possible working in the
jobs that will strengthen Ontario's competitive advantage. That means ensuring
all Ontarians have the opportunities and tools they need to succeed. It means
investing:

    
    -   $560 million to support new skills for new careers
    -   $465 million to expand postsecondary student aid and programs
    -   $970 million to build places to learn.

    SUPPORTING NEW SKILLS FOR NEW CAREERS

    Skills training programs will give Ontario's workforce the knowledge,
skills, innovation and flexibility to compete with the world's best by
investing:

    -   $355 million over three years for a new Second Career Strategy to
        help 20,000 unemployed workers who commit to a long-term training
        plan make the transition to new careers and well-paying jobs in
        growing areas of the economy
    -   $75 million over the next three years, rising to $50 million annually
        by 2011-12, to further expand the number of apprentices. The goal is
        to reach 32,500 annually, an increase of another 25 per cent, by
        2011-12
    -   $45 million over three years for the Apprenticeship Enhancement Fund
        to buy state-of-the-art equipment essential for technical training
    -   $25 million in 2007-08 for employer-based training in the
        manufacturing sector through the Yves Landry Foundation.

    EXPANDING POSTSECONDARY STUDENT AID AND PROGRAMS

    An estimated 70 per cent of new jobs in the next decade will require
postsecondary education, up from about 60 per cent in the last 10 years. To
expand postsecondary student aid and other programs, this Budget is investing:

    -   $385 million over three years for a new Textbook and Technology
        Grant. It will help lower costs for every full-time college and
        university student annually, with grants of $150 per student this
        fall, $225 in the fall of 2009 and $300 in subsequent years
    -   $27 million over three years for a new, annual Distance Grant to
        assist with transportation costs for students from rural and remote
        areas attending college or university
    -   more than $16 million to enhance the successful Pathways to Education
        program and increase the number of at-risk youth finishing high
        school or proceeding to postsecondary education or directly to the
        workforce
    -   more than $7 million over three years for an International Ontario
        Strategy to attract talented postsecondary students from around the
        world, raising the level of research excellence in Ontario's
        universities and contributing to economic prosperity
    -   more than $1 million over three years for Global Edge, a program that
        facilitates international work and learning opportunities for
        enterprising postsecondary students.

    BUILDING PLACES TO LEARN

    The McGuinty government is providing capital investments of $970 million
over three years to build places where students learn:

    -   $200 million in 2007-08 for the maintenance and renewal of university
        facilities
    -   $200 million over three years for new and expanded skills training
        centres and facilities under the Strategic Skills Training Capital
        Investments program
    -   $60 million over three years for the College Equipment and Renewal
        Fund
    -   $25 million in 2007-08 to establish a new Munk School of
        International Studies at the University of Toronto
    -   $10 million in 2007-08 to the University of Waterloo at Stratford for
        a new digital media institute and convergence centre
    -   $9 million in 2007-08 to the Ontario College of Art and Design for a
        research and innovation laboratory in interactive design and digital
        media
    -   $464 million included in the 2007 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal
        Review for postsecondary campus renewal and strategic capital
        investments.

    ACHIEVEMENTS

    To keep Ontario competitive in the changing economy, the McGuinty
government has already proceeded with the following investments:

    -   Under the Reaching Higher Plan, announced in 2005, a cumulative
        $6.2 billion in the postsecondary education sector by 2009-10,
        increasing full-time enrolment to date by 93,000 since 2002-03
    -   Almost three times the number of grants compared to 2003-04 - now
        helping 120,000 students, including about 56,000 upfront tuition
        grants for low- and middle-income students
    -   $40 million announced in 2007 for skills development, as part of the
        Employment Ontario program, and a Rapid Re-employment and Training
        Service to deliver immediate career counselling and retraining for
        people facing layoffs
    -   More than $1 billion annually for the Employment Ontario program that
        provides a comprehensive jobs and training strategy including
        training, apprenticeship, employment counselling, job search supports
        and wage subsidies in nearly 900 locations across the province
    -   $160 million in 2007-08 to help newcomers settle, improve their
        language skills and find jobs through training programs.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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    2008 Ontario Budget                                         Backgrounder
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              March 25, 2008

       STRENGTHENING ONTARIO'S ECONOMY BY INVESTING IN INFRASTRUCTURE
    

    The McGuinty government's investments in Ontario's infrastructure will
build stronger communities, improve the quality of life and attract new
business investment. Our infrastructure initiatives will create jobs and a
more productive, competitive and green economy.
    This Budget includes $1 billion in new funding for municipal
infrastructure in 2007-08.

    MUNICIPAL ROADS AND BRIDGES

    Municipal roads and bridges are the backbone of Ontario's transportation
network as they connect communities and provide access to economic
opportunities. In 2007-08, the McGuinty government is investing:

    
    -   $400 million for municipal roads and bridges to help communities
        outside Toronto
    -   $150 million in the Municipal Infrastructure Investment Initiative,
        building on the $300 million included in 2007 for municipalities'
        priority infrastructure projects, including roads and bridges
    -   $16 million to fund 35 projects that help municipalities invest in
        local roadways designated as Connecting Links.

    PUBLIC TRANSIT AND REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION

    Expanded public transit will reduce traffic congestion and improve air
quality. Investments include:

    -   $497 million for public transit in the Greater Toronto Area and
        Hamilton
    -   $314 million in 2008 to municipalities in gas tax revenues for public
        transit
    -   $382 million in 2008-09 to improve GO Transit infrastructure
        including Union Station, as well as replace and renew GO Transit's
        equipment
    -   $166 million over the next five years to expand GO Transit's Bus
        Rapid Transit system.

    WINDSOR BORDER

    International trade is integral to Ontario's and Canada's economic
prosperity. The McGuinty government is committed to ensuring efficient and
uninterrupted trade with the United States through Ontario's borders, gateways
and trade corridors.

    -   The province is working with federal and U.S. partners on a strategy
        to develop a new border crossing and associated infrastructure at the
        crucial Windsor-Detroit Gateway
    -   Ontario will fully fund its share of the costs of the final proposed
        road link between Highway 401 and the new border crossing. Sufficient
        funds to cover the costs of the project are built into the
        government's 10-year infrastructure plan.

    HIGHWAYS

    The government is improving highways and bridges:

    -   $448 million in new funding over the next five years to accelerate
        projects to rehabilitate bridges that are part of the provincial
        highway network
    -   Making progress on commitments included in the ReNew Ontario plan,
        with overall investments of $927 million in 2008-09 in the Southern
        Ontario Highways Program and $557 million in the Northern Ontario
        Highways Program.

    AFFORDABLE HOUSING

    In this Budget, the McGuinty government is investing $100 million to
rehabilitate existing social housing units, including improving their energy
efficiency.
    Key public-sector social housing providers would also be eligible for up
to $500 million in low-cost loans through OSIFA.

    INVESTMENTS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

    The government is strengthening schools and communities by investing $750
million, beginning in the 2008-09 school year, to build new schools and repair
school facilities.

    PROTECTING AND IMPROVING ONTARIO'S NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

    Other key initiatives in the government's fight against climate change
include:

    -   $17.5 billion MoveOntario 2020 rapid-transit action plan to expand
        public transit, which will reduce traffic congestion and improve air
        quality
    -   $25 million towards a centre for research and innovation in the bio-
        economy, to be located in Thunder Bay.

    ACHIEVEMENTS

    The government's actions to support municipalities include:

    -   $870 million to municipalities through the Ontario Municipal
        Partnership Fund in 2008, a $252 million or 41 per cent increase over
        2004
    -   Phasing out GTA pooling over seven years starting in 2007
    -   Saving municipalities more than $900 million per year by 2011 through
        the uploading of Ontario Drug Benefit and Ontario Disability Support
        Program costs
    -   Cutting high Business Education Tax rates
    -   Providing more than $1.6 billion by 2010 in gas tax funding
    -   Increasing the provincial share of public health funding to
        75 per cent in 2007 from 50 per cent in 2004
    -   Providing over $300 million in incremental land ambulance funding
        since 2006
    -   Committed to funding more than 100 hospital projects to expand and
        upgrade facilities across the province.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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    2008 Ontario Budget                                         Backgrounder
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              March 25, 2008

               STRENGTHENING ONTARIO'S ECONOMY BY INVESTING IN
                            BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY

    Ontario's competitive strengths attract business investment and create
jobs. The McGuinty government is investing in key sectors and making the tax
system more competitive to promote investment and encourage economic growth.

    NEW INVESTMENTS IN KEY ONTARIO SECTORS

    Manufacturing

    The government is proposing $750 million in business tax relief over four
years, starting in 2007-08. This relief would primarily benefit the
manufacturing and resource sectors and includes:

    -   Eliminating the Capital Tax retroactive to January 1, 2007 for
        businesses primarily engaged in manufacturing and resource
        activities, which would entitle them to $190 million in rebates
    -   Extending an accelerated Capital Cost Allowance (CCA) rate for
        manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment investments made
        before 2012, and paralleling other CCA measures announced in the 2008
        federal budget
    -   Accelerating Business Education Tax (BET) rate cuts for northern
        businesses, resulting in total savings of more than $70 million over
        the next three years.

    The government is also providing significant investments in workplace
training with new funding in 2007-08:

    -   $25 million for employer-based training in the manufacturing sector
        through the Yves Landry Foundation
    -   $22.1 million to Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada in Cambridge
    -   $5.6 million to Chrysler Canada in Brampton, Etobicoke and Windsor.

    Financial and Business Services

    Ontario is building on its existing strengths to help ensure the financial
sector continues to grow and attract the best and brightest people and
financial firms from around the world. The government will:

    -   Propose changes to further expand harmonized approaches across
        jurisdictions for regulating securities dealers and advisers, and
        investment fund managers
    -   Launch a review of Ontario's Securities Act.

    Entertainment and Creative Cluster

    To help Ontario's entertainment and creative cluster, a cornerstone of the
province's new innovative economy, the government is:

    -   Proposing enhancements to the Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tax
        Credit
    -   Providing $7 million over the next four years for the Interactive
        Digital Media Fund
    -   Proposing to make permanent the Retail Sales Tax exemption for
        admissions to live theatres of not more than 3,200 seats
    -   Providing $4 million over four years to support international
        marketing initiatives and increase the profile of Ontario's artists
        and cultural industries.

    Tourism

    The government is supporting tourism in Ontario with new investments and a
proposed tax measure totalling $92 million over five years starting in
2007-08, which include:

    -   $8 million over the next two years to conduct research on new tourism
        markets and determine the steps necessary to increase visits to
        Ontario
    -   $50 million over four years in the Festival and Events Attraction and
        Support Program
    -   A proposal to extend the Retail Sales Tax exemption for Destination
        Marketing Fees until June 30, 2010.

    Forest Sector

    The government is building on more than $1 billion in assistance since
2005 to stimulate new investments in value-added manufacturing and
co-generation to help the forest sector reposition itself in the global
marketplace, including:

    -   Proposing to reduce the stumpage rate for poplar hardwood by
        $2.76 per cubic metre to match the white birch rate, effective
        April 1, 2008. This initiative has an estimated value of $6 million
        in 2008-09
    -   $25 million towards a centre for research and innovation in the bio-
        economy, to be located in Thunder Bay, which will undertake frontier
        research in the next generation of higher-value forestry products
    -   $15 million over four years for a centre for invasive species
        management in Sault Ste. Marie
    -   Implementing forest bio-fibre pricing that will spur the development
        of new technologies while ensuring the renewal and protection of
        Ontario's forests.

    Agriculture

    In this Budget, the government is helping farmers stay competitive in a
rapidly changing global marketplace and move towards a more sustainable future
by:

    -   Proposing to expand the Land Transfer Tax exemption for transfers of
        the family farm to include transfers from family farm corporations to
        individual family members
    -   $56 million over four years for the Pick Ontario Freshness strategy
        and the Ontario Farmers' Markets Initiative
    -   $56 million in 2007-08 to the University of Guelph to support
        research, animal health and the Ontario Veterinary College
    -   $12.5 million in 2007-08 to support the Vineland Research and
        Innovation Centre.

    STRENGTHENING THE ENVIRONMENT FOR INNOVATION

    Innovation is a catalyst for growth across all sectors of the economy.
This Budget supports a culture of innovation through nearly $300 million in
new investments and proposed tax incentives that support the startup and
growth of innovative firms, including:

    -   A proposed 10-year Ontario income tax exemption for new corporations
        that commercialize intellectual property developed by qualifying
        Canadian universities, colleges or research institutes
    -   Proposed enhancements to the Ontario Innovation Tax Credit, which
        provides a 10 per cent refundable tax credit to small and medium-
        sized corporations performing eligible Scientific Research and
        Experimental Development in Ontario
    -   $250 million over the next five years to the Ontario Research Fund
        for investment in research infrastructure at Ontario institutions
    -   $42.5 million in strategic investments to boost innovation in
        Ontario's economy, including:
           -  $10 million in 2007-08 to the University of Waterloo at
              Stratford and $9 million in 2007-08 to the Ontario College of
              Art and Design
           -  $7.5 million in 2007-08 to the University of Western Ontario to
              support interdisciplinary research into chemicals and fuels
              made from agricultural resources.
    

    The McGuinty government is also moving forward on the Next Generation of
Jobs Fund, a five-year, $1.15 billion strategy to help innovative companies
keep pace with changes in the global economy and secure new knowledge-based
jobs and investments in Ontario.

    MODERNIZING REGULATION

    Ontario's goal is to lead all Canadian jurisdictions in efforts to
measure and reduce the regulatory burden. Ontario's regulatory modernization
will start with an aggressive cap-and-trade initiative for government
regulations, so that when new regulations are enacted, others must be
eliminated.

    INVESTMENT ONTARIO INC.

    To respond to intensifying global competition for new business
investments and jobs, the government will establish Investment Ontario Inc.,
an independent agency that will provide businesses with fast and effective
access to economic development services and assistance. This will help the
government become more strategic in targeting markets and sectors on which to
focus its investment and trade activities, improving Ontario's international
recognition.

    ACHIEVEMENTS

    In its 2007 Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review, the government proposed
new tax measures that support manufacturers and other sectors in Ontario
challenged by recent economic conditions. These proposed measures, totalling
$1.1 billion in tax reductions over three years, include:

    
    -   Eliminating Capital Tax on January 1, 2008 for corporations primarily
        engaged in manufacturing and resource activities
    -   Providing a 21 per cent Capital Tax rate cut for all businesses
        retroactive to January 1, 2007, on the way to full elimination in
        2010
    -   Increasing the small business deduction threshold to $500,000 from
        $400,000, retroactive to January 1, 2007
    -   Increasing the film tax credit rates, effective January 1, 2008.

    In the 2007 Budget, the government announced its plan to reduce high
Business Education Tax rates by $540 million over seven years, benefiting more
than 500,000 businesses in 321 municipalities across the province.

    Other key sector achievements include:

    -   Ontario's strategic auto-sector investments, including the
        $500 million Ontario Automotive Investment Strategy, have helped
        leverage more than $7 billion in new auto-sector investments by North
        American and Asian automakers, anchoring thousands of high-skill,
        high-paying jobs
    -   The Advanced Manufacturing Investment Strategy has made commitments
        to support innovative projects that will generate $850 million in new
        investments and support the creation or retention of about 3,800 jobs
        over a five-year period
    -   More than $1 billion in forest-sector support has been made available
        by Ontario since 2005, including $350 million in loan guarantees to
        stimulate new investments in value-added manufacturing, energy
        conservation and energy co-generation, and $150 million in Forest
        Sector Prosperity Fund grants to leverage new capital investments in
        various areas
    -   $30 million, announced in the 2007 Economic Outlook and Fiscal
        Review, to expand the Ministry of Tourism's promotion and marketing
        campaign in Canadian and international markets, consisting of $20
        million for tourism marketing initiatives and $10 million for
        festivals and special events.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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    2008 Ontario Budget                                         Backgrounder
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              March 25, 2008

    
    STRENGTHENING ONTARIO'S FUTURE BY INVESTING IN HEALTH CARE

    Ontario's publicly funded health care system helps make the province
attractive for businesses to invest and create jobs.
    The government's plan is improving access, shortening wait times,
promoting wellness, preventing illness and modernizing health infrastructure.
    Investments in the health care sector have increased from $29.4 billion
in 2003-04 to a planned $40.4 billion in 2008-09, rising to $42.4 billion in
2009-10 and $44.7 billion in 2010-11.

    IMPROVING ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE

    More health care professionals

    Through the 2008 Budget, the government is moving towards hiring 9,000
nurses by 2011-12, by investing more than $500 million over three years in
addition to making other investments. The government is increasing first-year
medical school enrolment by 23 per cent between 2003-04 and 2008-09.
    The government is investing $90 million in 2008-09 to support full-time
employment opportunities for nursing graduates. The government will also
increase from 150 to 200 the number of student spaces for primary health care
nurse practitioners and expand the number of undergraduate spaces for midwives
from 60 to 90.

    Better access to health care in rural, underserviced areas

    By investing $53 million over the next three years, the government will
create 50 more Family Health Teams by 2011-12. This Budget proposes to expand
nurse practitioner-led clinics by providing $38 million over three years. The
government will also provide $13 million in 2008-09 for enhancements to the
Northern Health Travel Grant to help northerners access health care services.

    Improving access to health care for seniors

    The government will increase access for seniors through:

    
    -   Hiring 2,000 nurses for long-term care homes
    -   $107 million over three years to move towards hiring 2,500 more
        personal support workers in long-term care homes
    -   $278 million over three years to address various program needs in
        long-term care homes
    -   $700 million over three years to continue the Aging at Home Strategy.

    SHORTENING WAIT TIMES

    This Budget is proposing to further reduce wait times to ensure that more
Ontarians get the care they need, when they need it. This Budget invests:

    -   $180 million over three years to create incentives to shorten
        emergency department wait times and improve patient satisfaction
    -   $120 million over three years to assist hospitals in areas of high-
        population growth to meet anticipated demand
    -   $64 million to expand general surgeries by 12,400 cases starting in
        2008-09, rising to 30,000 surgeries in 2010-11
    -   $17 million over three years to fund the operation of an additional
        five MRI machines, resulting in approximately 21,900 more scans
    -   $20 million to support children with complex special needs, bringing
        total provincial spending on children's mental health to over
        $440 million annually.

    PROMOTING WELLNESS AND PREVENTING ILLNESS

    This Budget proposes to build on the government's successful focus on
active and healthy living, health promotion and illness prevention, by
investing:

    -   $154 million over three years to increase early detection and
        facilitate treatment of breast, cervical and colorectal cancers.
        Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) tests will also be covered for the
        first time as part of this investment and the human papillomavirus
        vaccination (HPV) program will be extended
    -   $190 million over three years to implement a Chronic Disease
        Prevention and Management Strategy, starting with diabetes
    -   $10 million annually in a childhood obesity strategy to encourage
        children to eat healthy and be physically active
    -   $80 million over three years to improve mental health and addiction
        services.

    The government is also:

    -   Proposing to make permanent the Retail Sales Tax exemption for
        qualifying nicotine replacement therapies
    -   Banning completely the display of tobacco products by May 31, 2008,
        as originally set out in the Smoke-Free Ontario Act
    -   Proposing legislation to ban smoking in cars where children are
        present, as announced in March 2008
    -   Proposing an extension until December 31, 2010 of the temporary
        Retail Sales Tax exemption for bicycles purchased for $1,000 or less
        and related safety equipment
    -   Proposing Bill 8, the Healthy Food for Healthy Schools Act, 2007,
        that would make schools healthier by banning processed trans fats
        from food and beverages sold in school cafeterias and removing
        unhealthy food and beverages from school vending machines.

    MODERNIZING HEALTH INFRASTRUCTURE

    The government proposes to proceed with a number of health infrastructure
projects in 2008, including:

    -   $14 million in 2007-08 to 10 residential hospices across Ontario
    -   $9 million to support the development of the new and expanded Ronald
        McDonald House in Toronto, which will provide support and more
        accommodation for families of seriously ill children from across
        Ontario who must travel for medical treatment
    -   $47 million in 2008-09, growing to $239 million in 2010-11, in e-
        health systems such as diagnostic imaging, drug and lab information,
        and a Diabetes Registry.

    TAKING ACTION ON TOXIC SUBSTANCES

    In the 2008 Budget, the government is making investments to protect
Ontarians' health by taking action on toxic substances, including:

    -   $41 million over four years to support the development of toxics
        legislation and a toxics reduction strategy that will require
        companies that emit toxic substances to reduce their emissions
    -   Working with Cancer Care Ontario and the Ontario Medical Association
        to identify, target and reduce the number of cancer-causing agents
        released in the environment.

    ACHIEVEMENTS

    Wait times for various key procedures are down since 2005:

    -   Cataract surgeries: wait time down 191 days or 61 per cent
    -   Angiography: wait time down 26 days or 47 per cent
    -   Knee replacements: wait time down 196 days or 45 per cent
    -   CT scans: wait time down 32 days or 40 per cent
    -   Hip replacements: wait time down 129 days or 37 per cent
    -   Angioplasty: wait time down nine days or 32 per cent
    -   Cancer surgeries: wait time down 12 days or 15 per cent
    -   MRI scans: wait time down seven days or six per cent
    -   Pediatric surgeries (since 2006): wait time down 14 days or
        five per cent.

    Access to health care professionals has improved:

    -   More than 500,000 people who did not have a family doctor in 2003 now
        have one
    -   More than 8,000 nurses were hired between 2003 and 2008
    -   More than doubled the number of training and assessment positions for
        international medical graduates to 200 positions in 2004.

    More health care services are available in the community:

    -   Introduced funding for residential hospices in up to 34 communities,
        part of the End-of-Life Care Strategy
    -   Increased the number of Community Health Centres (CHCs) to 76 from 54
        and the number of satellite CHCs to 27 from 10, serving an additional
        200,000 Ontarians.

    To promote wellness and prevent illness, the government has:

    -   Implemented the Smoke-Free Ontario Strategy and developed an award-
        winning website, www.stupid.ca
    -   Launched Operation Health Protection to enhance Ontario's public
        health system
    -   Added, free of charge, three vaccines to the roster of recommended
        childhood vaccinations: Pneumococcal Conjugate, Varicella and
        Meningococcal C-Conjugate. This saves families about $600 per child.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    2008 Ontario Budget                                         Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              March 25, 2008

          STRENGTHENING ONTARIO'S ECONOMY BY INVESTING IN EDUCATION
    

    The province's continued prosperity in a competitive global economy
depends on a well-educated and highly skilled workforce.

    HIGHER LEVELS OF STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT

    Through substantial increases in funding and by partnering with
elementary and secondary schools, the government has built a strong foundation
for student achievement. The government is:

    
    -   Increasing Grants for Student Needs to $18.8 billion in the 2008-09
        school year, a 20.3 per cent increase since 2003-04
    -   Increasing average per-student funding to an estimated $9,821 in
        2008-09, up $1,901 or 24 per cent since 2003-04.
    

    Literacy and Numeracy

    The government is committed to helping students improve their reading,
writing and math skills so that 75 per cent of Grade 6 students are reaching
the provincial standard on reading, writing and math assessments. The
government is continuing to improve literacy and numeracy through an
additional investment of $8 million in 2008-09, bringing the total annual
investment to $65 million. The government is also boosting child literacy by
investing $10 million in the 2008-09 school year for approximately 160
additional library staff and resources.

    Graduation Rates

    A key measure of student achievement is the number of students who
graduate. The government will provide more than $16 million to expand the
successful Pathways to Education program to increase the number of at-risk
youth finishing high school. The government will invest over $50 million more
in 2008-09 for a variety of programs to help more students graduate.

    REDUCED GAPS IN STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT

    A core priority for the government is quality education for all publicly
funded schools. To help every child succeed, the government is investing:

    
    -   $10 million in English as a Second Language in the 2008-09 school
        year
    -   $67 million in special needs funding in the 2008-09 school year
    -   $32 million over three years in the Student Nutrition Program
    -   $2 million in 2008-09 for Parenting and Family Literacy Centres.

    INCREASED CONFIDENCE IN PUBLICLY FUNDED EDUCATION

    Public confidence is key to creating communities that value learning and
are committed to maintaining and improving publicly funded schools.

    -   $750 million investment beginning in the 2008-09 school year, to
        build new schools and repair school facilities
    -   $10 million through the new Program Enhancement Grant in the 2008-09
        school year to help students receive a well-rounded education through
        arts, music programs, physical education and other outdoor education
        programs
    -   $13 million in increased funding for the Community Use of Schools
        program in 2008-09. The government will double the existing
        $20 million funding for this program to more than $40 million in
        2009-10
    -   $57 million in the 2008-09 school year for programs to ensure
        students have a safe and positive learning environment, including
        $10 million in new funding for high schools in urban communities.

    THE ENVIRONMENT

    -   $3 million in 2008-09 in a range of coordinated initiatives to ensure
        that environmental education is part of every child's learning and
        that schools incorporate environmental awareness in planning their
        resources, operations and facilities.

    REACHING HIGHER

    The government is implementing new initiatives in the 2008 Budget to
increase the affordability of postsecondary education. The government will
also expand the number of skilled workers in Ontario through more
apprenticeships, and help unemployed workers train for new careers through:

    -   The new three-year $1.5 billion Skills to Jobs Action Plan includes:

           -  $970 million to build places where students learn
           -  $355 million over three years for a Second Career Strategy to
              help 20,000 unemployed workers obtain long-term training for
              new careers
           -  $75 million over the next three years to further expand
              apprenticeship programs.
           -  $385 million over three years for an annual Textbook and
              Technology Grant, or $300 per student annually when fully in
              place, benefiting every full-time university and college
              student
           -  $27 million over three years for a new Distance Grant to assist
              with travel costs for postsecondary students from remote and
              rural areas
           -   More than $7 million over three years for an International
              Ontario Strategy to attract postsecondary students from around
              the world

    ACHIEVEMENTS

    The government's targeted investments and strategies since 2003 have
resulted in measurable success for Ontario students.

    Elementary and secondary education:

    -   Students in junior kindergarten to Grade 3 are receiving more
        individual attention from their teachers - 99.7 per cent of primary
        classrooms have 23 or fewer students compared to 64 per cent in 2003-
        04, and 88.4 per cent have 20 or fewer students this year, up from
        31 per cent in 2003-04
    -   In 2006-07, 65 per cent of Grade 3 students' test scores for reading,
        writing and math were at or above the provincial standard, up from 54
        per cent in 2002-03. Sixty-one per cent of Grade 6 students are at or
        above the provincial standard, up from 54 per cent in 2002-03
    -   High school graduation is up to 75 per cent in 2006-07 from 68 per
        cent in 2003-04, resulting in 10,500 more graduates every single
        year.

    Postsecondary education:

    -   Under the Reaching Higher Plan, the Ontario government is investing
        more than $6.2 billion in postsecondary education by 2009-10,
        improving quality, access and accountability
    -   Grants for university and college operating costs increased by over
        40 per cent between 2003-04 and 2007-08, supporting the hiring of new
        faculty, increasing student-faculty interaction, and improving
        student services and libraries
    -   Since 2002-03, 93,000 more students are attending Ontario colleges
        and universities
    -   Providing more than $580 million in student financial aid through the
        Ontario Student Assistance Program in 2007-08.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    2008 Ontario Budget                                         Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              March 25, 2008

           STRENGTHENING ONTARIO'S ECONOMY BY INVESTING IN NORTHERN
                              AND RURAL ONTARIO
    

    Strong, vibrant northern and rural communities are important to Ontario's
economic success and quality of life. These regions have great potential to
contribute to Ontario's innovative new economy, but they also face unique
challenges that require a focused and coordinated response.

    BUILDING OPPORTUNITIES IN NORTHERN ONTARIO

    In addition to investments in education and health care, this Budget
provides $508.7 million in strategic initiatives over four years to create
opportunities in northern communities and help to secure the region's place in
Ontario's changing economy. Northern Ontario will benefit from:

    
    -  $302 million over the next four years for new investments in northern
       highways
    -  An acceleration of Business Education Tax (BET) rate cuts for northern
       businesses:
        - BET rates will be reduced more quickly in 85 northern
          municipalities, benefiting more than 30,000 businesses, resulting
          in total savings of more than $70 million over the next three years
    -  Increasing funding from $60 million in 2007-08 to $100 million in
       2011-12, for the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation
    -  $25 million to support the creation of a centre in Thunder Bay for
       research and innovation in the bio-economy focused on forestry
    -  $15 million to support the establishment of a centre for invasive
       species management in Sault Ste. Marie
    -  $9.7 million to complete funding of Ontario's commitment of
       $14.7 million to develop a Molecular Medicine Research Centre in
       Thunder Bay
    -  $27 million over three years for a new Distance Grant to assist with
       travel costs for postsecondary students in rural and remote areas
    -  An additional $13 million in 2008-09 for enhancements to the Northern
       Health Travel Grant to help northerners access health care services
    -  $450 million in the Municipal Infrastructure Investment Initiative -
       $150 million in 2008, building on $300 million in 2007
    -  $400 million in 2007-08 for municipal roads and bridges to help
       communities outside Toronto.
    

    The McGuinty government is also working with Aboriginal peoples and
northern stakeholders on a Growth Plan for Northern Ontario. The plan will
focus on achieving and sustaining growth, and creating opportunities to live,
work and raise families in the north.

    OPPORTUNITIES FOR RURAL ONTARIO

    The McGuinty government is working with rural communities and
stakeholders to give them the opportunities they need to embark on a
prosperous future. To further enhance opportunities for growth and support a
high quality of life in Ontario's rural communities, this Budget announces:

    
    -  An additional $400 million in 2007-08 for municipal roads and bridges
       outside Toronto
    -  $30 million over four years to enhance broadband access in rural areas
       in southern Ontario, leveraging broadband infrastructure investment
       from private-sector businesses and public partners to grow and improve
       access to public services such as e-learning, e-health and
       e-government
    -  $30 million increase over four years to the Rural Economic Development
       Program (RED)
    -  $53 million over the next three years to add 50 more Family Health
       Teams by 2011-12, targeting rural and underserviced communities
    -  Led by the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, the government
       is also working with stakeholders to develop the Eastern Ontario
       Development Fund
    -  Proposing to expand the Land Transfer Tax exemption for transfers of
       the family farm to include transfers from family farm corporations to
       individual family members
    -  In addition, rural communities will benefit from initiatives to
       support key sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture and forestry,
       and from Ontario's commitment to develop the bio-economy.

    ENVIRONMENT

    -  $56 million over four years for the Pick Ontario Freshness strategy
       and the Ontario Farmers' Market initiative, which will help Ontarians
       to buy locally
    -  $7.5 million to the University of Western Ontario to support
       interdisciplinary research into chemicals and fuels made from
       agricultural resources.
    

    ACHIEVEMENTS

    North

    These announcements build on existing investments in health, education
and infrastructure that specifically address the north's unique circumstances.
They also enhance strategic support for key industries and research and
commercialization that are helping to build on the north's strengths and
better position the region to seize the opportunities of the new economy.
Examples include:

    
    -  More than $1 billion has been made available to assist the forest
       sector since 2005
    -  The first new medical school in Canada in over 30 years opened in 2005
       - the Northern Ontario School of Medicine
    -  $1.8 billion, five-year program to improve and expand northern
       highways as part of ReNew Ontario
    -  More than $48 million invested in additional surgeries and exams in
       hospitals in the North East and North West Local Health Integration
       Networks since the launch of the Wait Time Strategy in 2003-04
    -  $10 million to support a new Centre for Excellence in Mining
       Innovation in Sudbury.

    Rural

    In addition to the initiatives announced in this Budget, there are a
number of investments made by this government to further support rural
communities to keep them competitive and expand their opportunities:

    -  $298 million under the Canada-Ontario Municipal Rural Infrastructure
       Fund to help fund 280 infrastructure projects, including an Asset
       Management Program to help rural and small communities improve and
       increase their capacity to manage their infrastructure assets
    -  Investments to help rural and small communities provide safe and
       reliable local infrastructure, including $140 million under the Rural
       Infrastructure Investment Initiative for critical projects identified
       by communities
    -  Funding to 68 small and rural hospitals in 2006-07 to address service
       gaps and maintain core services that support emergency care in their
       communities as part of the October 2006 Emergency Department Action
       Plan
    -  $17 million in new annual funding in the 2007-08 school year under the
       $63 million Supported Schools Allocation for teachers and operating
       costs in schools with low enrolment that are too far apart to
       consolidate
    -  The RED program, which in 2007-08 approved $18.4 million for
       50 projects in three priority areas: improved access to health care
       services, revitalized communities and downtowns, and enhanced skills
       training
    -  The Rural Connections Program, which invested $10 million in 2007-08
       to assist 18 rural southern Ontario communities to implement broadband
       access
    -  The Rural Summer Jobs Service, which in 2007 helped more than
       3,800 students, aged 14 to 24, gain valuable experience and work
       skills.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     ontario.ca/finance-news
                                                      Disponible en français

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    -------------------------------------------------------------------------


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    2008 Ontario Budget                                         Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              March 25, 2008

              STRENGTHENING ONTARIO'S FUTURE BY INVESTING IN FAMILIES
                             AND QUALITY OF LIFE
    

    The McGuinty government is committed to improving the quality of life of
all Ontarians, particularly the most vulnerable citizens. The government wants
to ensure that all Ontarians have the opportunities and tools they need to
reach their full potential.
    The government's Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction will develop a
focused poverty reduction strategy with measures and reasonable targets by the
end of 2008.

    CHILDREN AND YOUTH

    Better Dental Care for Low-Income Families

    The government is proposing to invest $135 million over three years to
provide dental services to low-income Ontarians, with investments starting in
2008-09.

    Student Nutrition Program

    The government is proposing to invest an additional $32 million over
three years in the Student Nutrition Program. The program supports local
organizations in delivering nutritious meals and snacks to children and youth
in schools and community settings. The new investment would more than double
annual funding for this program.

    Parenting and Family Literacy Centres

    The government is providing an additional investment of $2 million in the
2008-09 school year to establish 34 more Parenting and Family Literacy Centres
in the province. These centres help prepare children for successful school
entry.

    LOW-INCOME ONTARIANS

    Ontario Child Benefit

    In July 2008, the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) will be delivered through
the personal income tax system and will assist over 600,000 low-income
families with children under 18. For 2008, the maximum OCB payment will be
$600 annually per child.

    Investing in Social Housing

    The government is providing $100 million in 2007-08 that may be used to
rehabilitate existing social housing, including energy efficiency
improvements. Key public sector social housing providers will also be able to
access up to $500 million in low-cost loans through OSIFA.

    Increased Support for Social Assistance

    To help social assistance recipients, the government is proposing to
increase the basic adult allowance and maximum shelter allowance by
two per cent in 2008-09. This would provide about 690,000 Ontario Works and
Ontario Disability Support Program recipients with an additional $36 million
in income support in 2008-09 and an additional $87 million in 2009-10.

    Minimum Wage

    The government is raising the minimum wage to $10.25 by 2010, with
consecutive annual increases of 75 cents on March 31, 2008 and onwards. After
a nine-year period during which the minimum wage was frozen, the government
has increased it five times from $6.85 per hour in 2003 to $8.75 at March 31,
2008.

    Improving Facilities for Children and Vulnerable Ontarians

    The government is providing $30 million in one-time funding to support
expansion and renovation projects at community agencies that provide services
to children and vulnerable populations, including families requiring child
care services; women experiencing abuse; adults and children with
developmental disabilities; and youth with emotional or behavioural problems.

    REDUCING PROPERTY TAX

    
    Help for Seniors

    The government is proposing to help low- and moderate-income seniors
    offset their property taxes:

      -  $1 billion over five years for a new Senior Homeowners' Property Tax
         Grant of up to $500 a year by 2010 for seniors with low and moderate
         incomes who own their homes
      -  $16 million over four years to enhance the Ontario Property and
         Sales Tax Credit program to ensure that senior couples receiving the
         guaranteed minimum level of income from governments receive the full
         benefit of these credits this year.
    

    A Fairer Appeal System

    The government is proposing to improve the fairness and transparency of
the property assessment appeal system by streamlining the appeal process, and
requiring that the onus of proof on assessment appeals be reversed so that the
Municipal Property Assessment Corporation would be required to prove the
accuracy of property assessments.

    IMPROVING ACCESS TO COMMUNITY SERVICES THROUGH 211 ONTARIO

    The Budget proposes to invest more than $13 million over four years to
expand 211 Ontario province-wide beginning in 2008-09. 211 Ontario is an
integrated telephone and Internet-based system providing users with one-stop
information about, and referrals to, local community social, health and
related government programs and services.

    SUPPORTING OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE ABORIGINAL PEOPLES OF ONTARIO

    The government is committed to working with the Aboriginal peoples of
Ontario, both on and off reserve, to expand economic development opportunities
and improve their quality of life.
    The government will invest approximately $600 million on average annually
in initiatives across government to improve quality of life for Aboriginal
peoples, including:

    
    -  $300 million for children and social services
    -  $85 million for health services
    -  $80 million for justice and policing initiatives
    -  $45 million for education and training programs.

    The government will invest:

    -  $4 million annually in increased funding to the Akwe:go program to
       provide at-risk urban Aboriginal children and their families with
       culturally relevant and community-based supports
    -  $5 million more in the 2008-09 school year for Aboriginal education
    -  $1.5 million, to be matched by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of
       Ontario, to establish a Research Chair in Aboriginal and Rural Health
       at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.

    PROTECTING ONTARIO'S ENVIRONMENT

    Protecting the environment improves Ontario's air, water and land, and
helps improve Ontarians' quality of life:

    -  $10 million over four years to support the province's plan banning
       cosmetic pesticides
    -  Proposing to extend the Retail Sales Tax exemption on bicycles
       purchased for $1,000 or less and related safety equipment until
       December 31, 2010
    -  Proposing to extend the Retail Sales Tax exemption for qualifying new
       ENERGY STAR(R) household appliances and light bulbs to the end of
       August 2009.

    ACHIEVEMENTS

    Recent initiatives to improve Ontarians' quality of life include:

    -  Proposing to expand the Land Transfer Tax Refund Program to include
       first-time homebuyers of resale homes, which will benefit thousands of
       Ontarians entering the housing market, and delivering $125 million of
       additional relief each year
    -  Doubling the number of children receiving autism intervention services
       to 1,300 and increasing the funding to $145 million annually
    -  Providing the Employment Standards program with an additional
       $3.6 million annually to improve front-line service and shorten
       claims-resolution times
    -  Investing more than $500 million since 2003 in developmental services
       and to support those with disabilities
    -  Creating a new statutory holiday in February - Family Day.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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    -------------------------------------------------------------------------


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    2008 Ontario Budget                                         Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              March 25, 2008

           STRENGTHENING ONTARIO'S ECONOMY FOR A PROSPEROUS FUTURE
    

    ONTARIO'S ECONOMIC RESILIENCE IN THE FACE OF GLOBAL CHALLENGES

    Ontario's economy has been strong and resilient in recent years, with
higher-than-forecast employment growth, and robust consumer and business
investment spending. Ontario's real gross domestic product (GDP) rose by an
estimated 2.1 per cent in 2007. Stronger-than-expected growth occurred despite
a significantly more challenging external environment, including weakening
U.S. growth, higher oil prices and a stronger Canadian dollar.

    ON TRACK FOR SIX CONSECUTIVE BALANCED BUDGETS

    The McGuinty government's prudent approach to managing the province's
finances continues to produce positive results. It has eliminated the
$5.5 billion deficit it inherited and is now on track to achieve its third
consecutive surplus and post six consecutive balanced budgets between 2005-06
and 2010-11. A $600 million surplus is forecast for 2007-08, representing an
in-year improvement of $1 billion from the 2007 Budget Plan. In line with the
projected six consecutive balanced budgets, the province's accumulated
deficit- to-GDP ratio is forecast to improve from 25.2 per cent in 2003-04 to
16.2 per cent by 2010-11.

    MEDIUM-TERM FISCAL OUTLOOK

    The province's total expense outlook is projected to grow from
$96.2 billion in 2008-09 to $102.6 billion by 2010-11. This $6.4 billion
increase reflects the initiatives and investments announced in this Budget for
health, education, postsecondary education and training, social services,
justice, infrastructure and the environment.
    Holding the average annual growth of spending to less than that of
revenue is a key element of prudence and discipline built into the
government's medium- term fiscal plan. The average annual growth of expense is
projected at 3.3 per cent over the medium term. Due largely to economic
growth, total revenue is forecast to increase by $6.9 billion, from
$96.9 billion in 2008-09 to $103.8 billion in 2010-11, yielding a higher
average annual growth rate of 3.5 per cent.
    The fiscal plan also includes prudence in the form of reserves of
$0.8 billion in 2008-09, $1.0 billion in 2009-10 and $1.2 billion in 2010-11.

    
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Medium-Term Fiscal Plan and Outlook
    ($ Billions)
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                               Outlook
                                    Interim      Plan   ---------------------
                                    2007-08   2008-09     2009-10    2010-11
                                 --------------------------------------------

    Total Revenue                      96.6      96.9       100.6      103.8

    Expense
    Programs
      Health Sector                    38.1      40.4        42.4       44.7
      Education Sector(1)              12.4      13.1        13.4       13.4
      Postsecondary Education
       and Training Sector              6.6       6.2         6.4        6.5
      Children's and Social
       Services Sector                 11.3      11.8        12.0       12.1
      Justice Sector                    3.7       3.7         3.9        4.0
      Other Programs                   14.9      11.9        12.5       12.8
                                 --------------------------------------------
    Total Programs                     87.0      87.3        90.6       93.4
    Interest on Debt                    9.0       8.9         9.0        9.1
                                 --------------------------------------------
    Total Expense                      96.0      96.2        99.6      102.6

    Reserve                               -       0.8         1.0        1.2
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Surplus/(Deficit)                   0.6       0.0         0.0        0.0
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    (1) Excludes Teachers' Pension Plan
    Note: Numbers may not add due to rounding.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    

    STRONG JOB GAINS SINCE 2003

    Since October 2003, the Ontario economy has created 456,800 net new jobs
- 383,500, or 84 per cent, have been full time - and there has been very
strong employment growth in sectors paying above-average wages, including
finance, education, health care and social assistance, construction and
professional services.
    The Ontario economy created 101,100 net new jobs in 2007, a gain of 1.6
per cent - the largest increase since 2004. Ontario industries that posted
strong job growth in 2007 include health care and social assistance (+32,800),
accommodation and food services (+26,500), professional, scientific and
technical services (+24,000), education (+21,600), and construction (+7,400).
    The Ministry of Finance is projecting employment to increase by one per
cent this year, 1.1 per cent in 2009 and 1.3 per cent in 2010, which
translates into a total gain of 230,000 net new jobs over this three-year
period.

    CHALLENGING EXTERNAL ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT

    Modest economic growth is anticipated in 2008 due to a slowing
U.S economy, high oil prices and a strong Canadian dollar. The Ministry of
Finance is projecting real GDP growth of 1.1 per cent in 2008, 2.1 per cent in
2009 and 2.7 per cent in 2010.
    The high value of the Canadian dollar has created challenges for
Ontario's export-oriented manufacturing, agriculture, forestry and tourism
sectors. The Canadian dollar averaged 93.1 cents US in 2007, rising for the
fifth straight year. However, the higher Canadian dollar has also benefited
Ontario businesses importing goods and services, including lowering the cost
of imported machinery and equipment.
    Forecasters, on average, call for a Canadian dollar of 98.7 cents US in
2008, 96.2 cents US in 2009 and 97.9 cents US in 2010.
    Oil prices averaged $72.30 US per barrel in 2007, rising for the sixth
consecutive year as they climbed from less than $50 US in mid-January 2007 to
more than $110 US in early March 2008. They are expected to remain elevated
over the forecast horizon due to restrained supply growth, strong global
demand and geopolitical uncertainty. However, elevated oil prices do not pose
the same risk as they did in the past - the Ontario economy is over 50 per
cent more energy efficient than it was during the oil shocks in the 1970s.

    
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    




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Office, (416) 325-3645; Scott Blodgett, Ministry of Finance, (416) 325-0324;
Public Inquiries 1-800-337-7222

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