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PCs' 2023 budget adds to hefty capital spending on transit, highways and hospitals

The Ford government's 2023 budget shows planned year-over-year spending on capital projects like transit, highway and hospitals will have doubled from 2020-21 to 2024-25
Doug Ford PDAC 2020 (2)
Ontario Premier Doug Ford at PDAC 2020 (Len Gillis/ photo)

More than 10 per cent of what the Ford government plans to spend in the next year is on building infrastructure like highways, transit and hospitals, zeroing in on what’s become one of its main priorities.

Ontario’s 2023 budget, released by Premier Doug Ford’s government on Thursday, lays out its intention to spend $20.6 billion in the next fiscal year on what it calls “the most ambitious capital plan” in the province’s history. Within that total, the government has budgeted $6.8 billion for transit projects, $2.8 billion for highways, $3.2 billion for hospitals, $2.9 billion on schools, and $1 billion on colleges and universities.

Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy’s budget shows $191 billion in planned spending by provincial ministries from April 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024. Another $14 billion in accrued interest places the province about $1.3 billion short of a balance for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

The 2023 budget touts the top-line cost of its key infrastructure improvements — which it calls its “capital plan” at $205.9 billion over the next decade. With $21.5 billion of this expected to be covered by unnamed third-parties, its cost to Ontario’s bottom line is expected to be $184.4 billion between now and 2032-33.

In the preamble of the budget — which is titled Building a Stronger Ontario — Bethlenfalvy writes that infrastructure spending is “needed to support growth across the province” including “so we can have a strong economy for the future.”

Over the next decade, $70.5 billion is earmarked for transit systems, $48 billion is allocated for new and upgraded hospitals, $27.9 billion for major roadways, $22 billion for schools, and $5.4 billion for colleges and universities.

While the 2023 budget highlights certain projects, it does not include their specific costs.

Major roadways the government plans to build include Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass. 

Multiple of its main transit projects are in the Greater Toronto Area, including the GO Expansion, the Ontario Line, the Scarborough Subway Extension and the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension.

Upgrades of Peel Memorial and a new hospital in Uxbridge are two of the spotlighted hospitals of the “more than 50” that the government has allocated funding to build or upgrade.

Since 2020, in each of its annual budgets — which double as its principal political documents — the Ford government has increased planned year-over-year spending on its capital plan.

The plan’s cost over the next decade has also grown significantly over the same time frame: the 2020 budget projected that the province would spend $142.9 billion on its capital plan by 2029-30.

The 2023 budget has planned capital plan costs rising from $23.5 billion in 2023-24 to $28.5 in 2025-26.

Of its groupings of capital projects, spending on transit and hospitals are expected to grow the most by mid-decade. In 2025-26, the government projects its transit projects will cost $10.1 billion, and building hospitals will cost $5.7 billion. Its planned spending on highways increases to $3.7 billion, and decreases on schools to $2.8 billion and colleges and universities to $627 million in the 2025-26 fiscal year.

This article originally appeared on The Trillium, a new Village Media website devoted to covering provincial politics at Queen’s Park.