Ontario Budget 2015: What to Watch

If you want to know what’s important, follow the money. That’s exactly what we – and all Ontarians – will do this Thursday, April 23, when Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne introduces her second provincial budget since winning a majority mandate last year.

What We Know

There’s been lots of speculation and public chatter about what’s important to this administration and where the public is on substantive issues. Here’s a rundown of what we know will be on the table (so far) through statements by the Premier and ministers in recent weeks:

  1. Expenditure Projections for 2014-2015. The Ontario deficit is projected to be $10.9 billion with a balanced budget projected by 2017/2018.
  2. Hydro One. The sale of Hydro One is projected to raise $4 billion to be placed into infrastructure investments. Ontario will remain its largest shareholder, and no single shareholder allowed to control more than 10 per cent of the company.
  3. The Beer Store. Beginning in December 2015, 450 supermarkets will be licensed to sell beer — matching the number of Beer Store outlets now in place.
  4. Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP).  The government will continue its commitment to further enhancing retirement security in Ontario by creating an administrative body for the ORPP, as well as introducing voluntary pooled retirement pension plans.
  5. Transit. Ontario will spend $16 billion on transit in the GTHA as part of province-wide infrastructure investment, financed by the sale of provincial assets.

What We (All) Want to Know

Still the devil is in the details and budget day always brings new revelations. Here are some of the questions that’ll get answered:

  1. Which departments and initiatives are being funded and which budgets are being leveled or cut back?
  2. How are major initiatives being financed?
  3. What are the GDP growth assumptions and revenue projections for the coming year?
  4. What are the factors that could determine whether Ontario can achieve a balanced budget by 2017/18?
  5. To what extent are Ontario’s fortunes tied to decisions by the federal government and its budget?

What Are People Saying?

We’ve been following discussions in both formal and informal newsrooms leading up to Thursday’s 2015 Ontario budget. Surprise, surprise there is really no consensus. So it will be up to the politicians, their political advisors and officials to develop a future direction for Ontario that many can get behind and support.

The good news is that the Premier has a clear line of sight and a four-year runway to get things done. The official opposition is preoccupied with internal matters and a May 9 leadership vote. Will the Premier take this opportunity to make bold moves that position Ontario for the future?  As importantly, will the people of Ontario get behind her plan?

“There is no question provincial budgets are important public policy vehicles and our clients pay close attention to their financial allocations and policy directions. In our experience, clients get the best results when they advocate within the government’s agenda and are strategic and proactive with advice and solutions 12 months a year. Alignment is most likely with a thoughtful, long-term plan rather than a frantic last minute dash to the finish line.” – Kim West, Partner and Public Affairs Practice Lead, Toronto

Budget 2015: What’s the Chatter?

*Using our social listening tool, Sysomos MAP, an initial Boolean search query was created to provide the full social content on the budget. Using multiple Boolean search queries we were able to get an overall sense of the popular hashtags and created a list based on the list of mentions.

This same query was applied to our traditional media monitoring tool, Infomart, to pull the entire list of traditional media mentions on the Ontario Budget. A human analysis was then conducted to create top 5 list of traditional media stories.

Geographic region was set to Ontario, with timeframe set from Jan 1, 2015.