Infrastructure a priority for Ontario
By Adam FreillConstruction Financing Infrastructure Institutional Roads
Provincial budget outlines $184 billion, 10-year infrastructure spending plan aiming to build highways and transit.
The Ontario government put infrastructure high on its priorities list when drafting its 2023 budget, which was revealed on March 23. In a post-budget statement, the government listed relieving gridlock, creating jobs, and connecting communities as reasons for its push to start construction on key infrastructure projects.
Plans for the province include: building a bridge crossing over the future Bradford Bypass; the next phase of construction for the new Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph; continuing work to widen Highway 401 from Pickering through Eastern Ontario; as well as moving ahead with plans to build Highway 413.
The total planned infrastructure spend amounts to more than $184 billion over a 10-year period.
Of that, $27.9 billion has been earmarked to support the planning and construction of highway expansion and rehabilitation projects, including Highway 413, a new 400-series highway that would span across Halton, Peel and York regions; the Bradford Bypass, a new four-lane freeway connecting Highways 400 and 404; and a new Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph.
Also in the budget with a 10-year window is $70.5 billion for transit. Projects in the public transit plan include: the transformation of the GO Transit rail network into a modern, reliable and fully integrated rapid transit network; and the largest subway expansion in Canadian history with the development of the Ontario Line, the Scarborough Subway Extension, the Yonge North Subway Extension and the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension.
“Ontario’s economy remains resilient, but the road ahead continues to be uncertain,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, the province’s Minister of Finance. “We are building Ontario so we can have a strong economy for the future and the infrastructure needed to support growth across the province.”
The province is also looking to build the workforce necessary for such projects, providing $224 million in 2023–24 for a new capital stream of the Skills Development Fund to leverage private-sector expertise and expand training centres, including union training halls, to provide more accessible, flexible training opportunities for workers.
The Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program will also receive more funding, with an additional $25 million being provided over three years to attract more skilled workers, including in-demand professionals in the skilled trades, to the province.
The Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) released a statement expressing its approval of the push to build 1.5 million homes in the province over the next decade, and for moving ahead with major infrastructure projects like Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass, which it says are “necessary to accommodate housing.”
“Boosting our housing supply is critical to the economic well-being of Ontario and I was pleased to see that in spite of the strong headwinds we are facing the government is intent on meeting the 1.5-million target,” stated RESCON president Richard Lyall. “With a massive skilled trades shortage looming, training the next generation of workers to build those houses is equally important. I applaud the government’s pledge to pump more money into the Skills Development Fund and the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program to increase the number of skilled trades.”
The province is also looking to spend over $48 billion in hospital infrastructure over the next 10 years, targeting more than 50 hospital projects to would add 3,000 new beds.
“With our thoughtful, transparent approach we have a plan to balance the budget while delivering support to families, workers, and businesses across Ontario,” said Minister Bethlenfalvy. “We will continue with this approach that is building an Ontario the people of this province can be proud of, not only today but in the future.”
Ontario’s 2022–23 deficit is projected to be $2.2 billion — $17.7 billion lower than the outlook published in the 2022 budget and $4.4 billion lower than the outlook published in the 2022–23 third quarter finances — with a plan to balance the books in 2024-25.