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2017 Budget: Ontario Returns to Balance, Falls Deeper in Debt

Toronto, April 27, 2017 – For almost a decade, Ontario’s small- and medium-sized businesses have been asking the provincial government to eliminate the budget deficit. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is pleased to see that the province has finally managed to balance the books with the announcement of today’s budget.

“The budget provides a summary of previously-announced measures on key policy files, such as hydro cost relief, infrastructure investments, and housing affordability,” said Plamen Petkov, Ontario Vice President at CFIB. “The government has not moved on most of our key recommendations, such as reducing taxes for small business and eliminating punitive time-of-use hydro pricing, but at least this budget does not contain any ‘poison pills’ that would increase the cost of doing business in the province.”

While a balanced budget is important for the province’s fiscal health, small business owners remain deeply concerned about the ballooning of Ontario’s net debt to over $300 billion. “Interest payments are the third highest expenditure on the provincial books at $11.6 billion per year,” said Julie Kwiecinski, CFIB’s Ontario Director of Provincial Affairs. “Business owners know that today’s debt is tomorrow’s taxes, so the government needs to act more aggressively on debt reduction, starting by developing a clear plan with specific timelines.”

The budget indicates the government’s intention to “strengthen Ontario’s income security and labour laws”. With the recommendations from the Changing Workplaces Review not yet publicly available, small business owners remain worried about how they will be affected. CFIB continues to strongly urge the government to consult broadly and extensively after the Review’s final report is released, before undertaking any legislative or regulatory changes on rules governing the workplace.

CFIB has long advocated for the introduction of voluntary, low-cost Pooled Registered Pension Plans (PRPP) in Ontario as an effective retirement savings option for business owners and their employees. After the recent signing of the federal-provincial agreement, PRPPs are now available in the province.

In addition, the budget provides for property tax reduction on agri-businesses that run some small-scale commercial activities on their farms. This is welcome news to farmers who sell their products on the farm and have been penalized by higher commercial property tax rates. 

The budget also reaffirms the province’s commitment to regulatory burden reduction and to breaking down interprovincial trade barriers. CFIB has continuously recognized these efforts and recently presented the “Golden Scissors Award” to the Minister of Economic Development and Growth for his leadership in signing the Canadian Free Trade Agreement. “Going forward, in addition to continuing to calculate and report on red tape savings, we urge the province to implement an annual regulatory count and a hard cap on the costs of rules in the system, as done in British Columbia and Quebec,” said Petkov.

To arrange an interview with Plamen Petkov or Julie Kwiecinski, please contact Kiara Morrissey at 416-222-8022, 647-464-2814, or [email protected].

April 27, 2017

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