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An MPP looks over his copy as Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa prepares to deliver the provincial budget at Queens Park in Toronto, April 23, 2015.

Mark Blinch/Reuters

Health Care

The government is freezing base operating funding to hospitals and has imposed a deal on doctors that will see their fees cut. One of the few areas in health care that will see growth is home care, as the province tries to encourage people to leave hospital earlier.

Over all, the sector will see average spending growth of just 1.9 per cent over five years. Given the relatively high cost of inflation in health care, this could amount to a cut in real terms.

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Cash-strapped hospitals have already shed more than 400 registered nurse jobs since the start of the year, according to the Ontario Nurses Association, and may have to make further cuts to stay within their budgets.

Education

The budget holds kindergarten through Grade 12 education spending to an average of 2 per cent over five years; postsecondary is nearly frozen in that time.

The province is pressing school boards to close schools, and is also taking a hard line in labour negotiations.

The government is pressing all unions, including teachers, to accept "net zero" deals, in which any wage increase is offset by cuts to benefits or other spending.

An internal Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation memo, obtained last week by The Globe and Mail, outlines another suggestion union officials say government has made at the bargaining table: scrapping class-size caps in high schools.

Two new agencies

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The government is creating not one but two new agencies whose job is to find ways to cut spending.

The Centre of Excellence for Evidence-Based Decision Making Support will be tasked with reviewing government programs and figuring out how to operate them more efficiently.

Meanwhile, the Behavioural Insights Unit (BIU) will use "proven behavioural science" to teach bureaucrats how to make "more cost-effective choices." It may sound like a concept adapted from Brave New World, but BIUs are already in use in Britain.

Big bucks for transit –with apologies to SmartTrack

The province is pouring $130-billion into infrastructure over the next decade, including a laundry list of transit projects. These include electrified, more frequent GO trains on Lakeshore and Barrie lines, light rail transit between Mississauga and Brampton, and highway improvements across the province.

But some proposed transit projects are still up in the air. The electrification of GO will help Toronto Mayor John Tory's proposed SmartTrack line, but the province says the rest of the project must be paid for by the federal and municipal governments.

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The second phase of the under-construction Eglinton LRT, which would bring it to Pearson airport, has also been put off until other governments offer money, and there are no details on the "rapid transit" promised for Hamilton.

More handouts for business

One of the few areas getting a spending boost is corporate welfare. The province is adding $200-million to the Jobs and Prosperity Fund, bringing the fund's total to $2.7-billion over 10 years.

The money will be used to pay companies – ranging from auto manufacturers to craft breweries – to set up shop in the province or expand their operations.

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