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  • Ontario's middle and working class families are losing ground August 15, 2017
    Ontario is becoming more polarized as middle and working class families see their share of the income pie shrinking while upper middle and rich families take home even more. New research from CCPA-Ontario Senior Economist Sheila Block reveals a staggering divide between two labour markets in the province: the top half of families continue to pile […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Join us in October for the CCPA-BC fundraising gala, featuring Senator Murray Sinclair August 14, 2017
    We are incredibly honoured to announce that Senator Murray Sinclair will address our 2017 Annual Gala as keynote speaker, on Thursday, October 19 in Vancouver. Tickets are now on sale. Will you join us? Senator Sinclair has served as chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), was the first Indigenous judge appointed in Manitoba, […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • How to make NAFTA sustainable, equitable July 19, 2017
    Global Affairs Canada is consulting Canadians on their priorities for, and concerns about, the planned renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In CCPA’s submission to this process, Scott Sinclair, Stuart Trew and Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood point out how NAFTA has failed to live up to its promise with respect to job and productivity […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • What’s next for BC? July 4, 2017
    Five weeks ago the CCPA-BC began a letter to our supporters with this statement: “What an interesting and exciting moment in BC politics! For a bunch of policy nerds like us at the CCPA, it doesn’t get much better than this.” At the time, we were writing about the just-announced agreement between the BC NDP […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Could skyrocketing private sector debt spell economic crisis? June 21, 2017
    Our latest report finds that Canada is racking up private sector debt faster than any other advanced economy in the world, putting the country at risk of serious economic consequences. The report, Addicted to Debt, reveals that Canada has added $1 trillion in private sector debt over the past five years, with the corporate sector […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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Ontario Budget: Federal-Provincial Relations

My post on the night after Ontario’s budget hit the key features. However, the budget had a couple of other interesting aspects from a federal-provincial perspective.

Childcare Funding

Some progressive voices trumpeted the provincial budget’s allocation of $63.5 million annually to replace discontinued federal funding for childcare spaces. While the Ontario government finally made the right decision on this file, it got way too much credit.

First, $63.5 million is only 0.05% of annual provincial expenditures. This funding hardly represents a major commitment to public childcare.

Second, provincial income taxes apply to the tax base defined by the federal government. Because the last federal budget slightly broadened this base by closing some tax loopholes, Ontario’s government will automatically collect an additional $81 million annually. (See Table 3 on page 167 of the provincial budget.)

Taken together, these two federal policies reduced provincial transfer revenue by $63.5 million but increased provincial tax revenue by $81 million. Should we really applaud Queen’s Park for using three-quarters of its windfall tax revenue to replace the lost transfer revenue?

Equalization

Only a couple of years ago, Premier McGuinty was obnoxiously demanding that Equalization be abolished. But his government’s recent budget confirms that Ontario will actually receive a billion dollars of Equalization transfers this fiscal year. So, had the federal government followed McGuinty’s advice, Ontario’s deficit would now be a billion dollars larger.

McGuinty’s likely retort would be that Ontario stills pays more into Equalization than it gets out. The federal government spends $14 billion annually on Equalization and collects about 40% of its revenue in Ontario. In that sense, the province pays $5.6 billion into Equalization.

However, none of that money comes from the Government of Ontario. The province’s only “contribution” is that residents pay the same federal tax rates as all other Canadians.

In theory, if the federal government eliminated Equalization and cut federal taxes by a corresponding amount (e.g. another two points off the GST), the Ontario government could increase provincial revenues by occupying the tax room. But Ottawa has already slashed its taxes by more than that amount and Ontario has not occupied the tax room.

Since Queen’s Park is unwilling to raise provincial taxes, the only effect of scrapping Equalization would be to reduce Ontario’s provincial revenues by a billion dollars. Fortunately, the federal government ignored McGuinty’s recent demand to do that.

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