On Tuesday the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce hosted the local business community and the Ontario Liberal caucus to a dialogue on the 2016 Ontario Budget. Ottawa business leaders had the opportunity to directly engage with Ontario Liberal caucus to to help shape the economic agenda for the National Capital Region.
The Ottawa Provincial Liberal caucus was represented by Hon. Bob Chiarelli, MPP (Ottawa West—Nepean), Minter of Energy, Hon. Madeleine Meilleur, MPP (Ottawa—Vanier), Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs, Hon. Yasir Naqvi, MPP (Ottawa Centre), Government House Leader and Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, John Fraser MPP (Ottawa South) and Marie-France Lalonde MPP (Orléans).
Brief presentations from three critical sectors key to Ottawa’s economy were presented by Cheryl Jensen, President and CEO, Algonquin College on ‘Talent and Post-Secondary Education’, followed by Michael Crockatt, President and CEO Ottawa Tourism on ‘Tourism and Infrastructure’ and Jeff Westeinde, Executive Chairman, Windmill Development group on ‘Innovation’.
The presentations were followed by a Q&A session with the MPPs which focused on the government’s plan to create jobs for today and tomorrow, support for entrepreneurs, SMEs and skills shortage among other key issues important to the Ottawa region.
Highlights of the discussion included contents of the 2016 Ontario Budget:
- Dedicating $15 billion for public transit and infrastructure projects in communities across Ontario, including cost-sharing for Phase 2 of the Ottawa LRT, and installing new noise barriers and widening Highway 417.
- $52 million to build two new and upgrade four additional schools and create 78 new child care spaces in Ottawa this year as part of more than $11 billion over the next 10 years for elementary and secondary education infrastructure.
- Investing $10 million in a new innovation and entrepreneurship centre for Francophone students at La Cité Collégiale and the new Institute for Fiscal Studies and Democracy through the University of Ottawa.
- Increasing mental health supports for youth in Ottawa including $1.5 million for the new 30 bed Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre.
- Investing $2.7 billion in our 10-year Jobs and Prosperity Fund and creating a new $400 million Business Growth Initiative to attract investment, create jobs, and support economic growth in Ottawa and across Ontario.
- $160 million over two years for the next phase of the Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy helping an additional 27,000 young people gain work experience and find jobs.
- Making the average university or college tuition free for students with family incomes under $50,000 and more affordable for middle-class families.
- Making sure Ottawa families get the quality health care they deserve with $345 million in additional hospital funding and $75 million for hospice and palliative care to provide dignity and end-of-life care.
- Expanding the sale of wine, beer and local cider to 450 grocery stores – providing customers more convenience and more choice while maintaining social responsibility.
- Creating the $325 million Green Investment Fund and setting a transparent price on carbon to develop a low-carbon economy, create jobs for today and tomorrow, and protect our environment for the next generation.
- Moving forward with our Ontario Retirement Pension Plan – building on the Canada Pension Plan – expanding coverage for workers and ensuring they retire with dignity.
- Removing the Drive Clean emissions test fee – saving people $37 while continuing to protect the environment.
- Increasing social assistance rates 1.5%, and continuing to upload social assistance and court security costs from municipalities, ensuring the City of Ottawa can focus property tax dollars on local priorities like affordable housing.