Ontario's budget today is going to make it more expensive to heat your home and fuel your car.
Premier Kathleen Wynne plans to introduce "cap-and-trade system" legislation, a promise she made almost a year ago to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa will stand before the legislature at 4 p.m. ET Thursday to present the budget, which is expected to include more details about the plan. CBCNews.ca is carrying the presentation live.
The government projects cap-and-trade will eventually push up the price of gas at the pumps 4.3 cents a litre. It also expects consumers will be paying an extra $5 a month on average for their natural gas home-heating bill.
"The cost of doing nothing is much much higher than the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Wynne said Wednesday.
Cap-and-trade is expected to raise about $1.3 billion next year. That money will be funnelled into lowering greenhouse gas emissions, the premier said.
Associate professor Mark Winfield of York University's faculty of environmental studies is concerned the government is going to give away some of the carbon emission allocations which would "cut into the revenue it's going to get."
He expects the government to set the price of carbon at $15 to $17 a ton, a figure he says will have little impact on climate change.
"(The impact) in a direct sense is limited. The price of carbon is so low, it is not likely to change behaviour," said Winfield.
However, he said this is still a "fairly significant first step" for Ontario to put a price on carbon, something Winfield said should have been done years ago.
Wynne also said cap-and-trade will not push up household hydro bills. The plan is to use the revenue from selling carbon emission allocations to industries to keep electricity rates flat.
The biggest line item in the provincial budget will be health care. Base funding for hospitals has been frozen for the past four years.
Hospitals in Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor and Kitchener announced layoffs of more than 500 registered nurses in the first weeks of this year.
Ontario Nurses' Association president Linda Haslam-Stroud is concerned the budget will put more of them out of work.
"There is no opportunity for our patients to receive the same kind of quality of care with those kinds of cuts," said Haslam-Stroud. "If they are not going to provide more funding to the hospitals, then we are going to see more deaths and more disease."
Some RNs are being replaced with lower-paid registered practical nurses. Health Minister Eric Hoskins says that has not harmed patient care.
The last budget set aside almost $51 billion for health-care spending. Compared to the previous year, that's a growth of less than the rate of inflation.
Other things to expect in the budget
Here are five other things to look for in the Liberal government's fiscal plan:
- The ninth consecutive deficit budget is expected to clearly outline how the government will eliminate $7.5 billion in red ink by 2017-18.
- Ontario's net debt is expected to surpass $300 billion, with bond rating agencies watching closely to see if the debt-to-GDP ratio will be heading down from nearly 40 per cent.
- There will be more details on the government's cap-and-trade plan to fight climate change, which will drive up the price of most consumer goods.
- It will outline already announced plans to let some grocery stores sell wine, which will get a new minimum price and could also be hit with a new tax.
- There will also be more details on the government's strategy to combat violence against indigenous women, which Wynne announced Monday would get $100 million in funding over three years.