If Dalton McGuinty has his way, renewing your driver’s licence or obtaining a birth certificate through Service Ontario will get a whole lot easier, thanks to a public-private partnership that will see some of these services delivered online.
This is one of many pledges buried deep within the provincial budget, along with a new tax credit that will make it cheaper for seniors to renovate their houses to install things like wheelchair ramps and a vow to clamp down on “victory laps” by high school students.
Such items might seem like small potatoes compared to big-ticket plans like freezing civil service wages and controlling health-care costs but, if implemented, they will have some of the most immediate effects on Ontarians’ everyday lives:
> Some seniors will pay more for prescription drugs. Those who earn over $100,000 will pay a $100 deductible, plus three per cent of their income over the $100,000 mark. Couples with an income over $160,000 will pay a $200 deductible and three per cent of their combined income over $160,000. They will all pay $6.11 per prescription. However, Queen’s Park is also offering seniors some financial relief in a bid to keep more of them in their homes and out of long-term care. A new tax credit will offer help to those who want to renovate their houses to improve accessibility and install the sorts of things they need to keep living there.
> Nearly a decade after the province scrapped grade 13, some 20,000 students are still running “victory laps” – returning for an extra year of high school, even after graduating. In a bid to save $22-million per year, the province will limit the number of credits students can take after earning a high school diploma to four.
> To make it a little easier for those students to make the jump into university or college, the government will index its tuition grant, which provides as much as $1,600 a year to post-secondary students, to annual tuition hikes. Conversely, the province will cut the textbook and technology tax credit and phase out another scholarship program.
> The Ontario Clean Energy Benefit will be scaled back: the province will now only provide assistance up to 3,000 kilowatt hours per month. Such a change would likely not be felt by most families, but large consumers of power such as big businesses, will notice the squeeze.
> The Ontario Child Benefit will increase, but more slowly than the government had initially planned. It will climb to $1,210 from $1,100 in July of next year, then rise to $1,310 in July 2014.
> The province estimates it can find big savings and make routine services simpler by moving many of Service Ontario’s functions online. The kiosks provide a single place for people to obtain health cards, drivers licences and other services. But, of course, it costs money to make money and the government doesn’t have the $100-million it would need to develop the project. Therefore, it is looking at creating a public-private partnership to make it happen.