On March 24th, the Ontario Government tabled their 2021 Budget - "Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy".
The 2021 Budget outlines Ontario’s next steps to defeat COVID‑19. It brings total investments to $16.3 billion to protect people’s health and $23.3 billion to protect our economy.
Ontario’s total response to COVID‑19 is now $51 billion.
On March 25, 2020, due to the COVID-19 epidemic, the Ontario government issued an Economic and Fiscal Update in lieu of their Spring 2020 Budget.
1. MODERNIZE AND STREAMLINE SERVICES IN THE JUSTICE SECTOR — FROM POLICING TO COURTS TO CORRECTIONS.
The government aims to achieve this by:
a. Streamlining the delivery of legal aid (est. generated savings of over $164 million annually, starting in 2021–22);
b. Leveraging technology to generate administrative efficiencies of up to $9 million annually, starting in 2021–22, for a staff scheduling solution in correctional facilities, and up to $13 million, at maturity, by diverting low‐risk individuals from the correctional system and providing alternatives to incarceration;
c. Modernizing Ontario’s death investigation system with new technology to respond to emerging challenges, such as the opioid crisis (est. annual savings of about $3 million in 2021–22);
d. Generating back‐office efficiencies by amalgamating adjudicative tribunals, saving up to $5 million annually in 2021–22.
e. Digitizing evidence collection and evidence sharing between police services and Crown attorneys;
f. Prioritizing video conferencing as the first option for most types of in‐custody court appearances;
g. Diverting low‐risk individuals from coming into the justice system and reducing the frequency of offenders committing another crime;
h. Continuing with the implementation of the bail bed program to provide beds in community-based facilities for vulnerable people awaiting bail and lacking shelter in Northern communities;
i. Developing justice centres that will integrate justice, health, education, housing and social services to collectively address the complex intersection of risk factors that drive gun‐ and gang-related violence in Ontario; and
j. Modernizing youth justice services, including the closure of underutilized youth justice facilities and reduction of beds in both the open and secure custody detention system as there is a continued trend of lower need for these services (annual savings: $48 million by 2021–22).
2. PROPOSED LEGISLATION THAT (IF PASSED) WOULD AIM TO OPTIMIZE RESOURCES, STREAMLINE UNNECESSARY PROCESSES, AND REDUCE UNREASONABLE TIME DELAYS BY:
a. Allowing Ontario Court of Justice judges and justices of the peace who are appointed to different courts (e.g., the Ontario Superior Court of Justice) to finish cases in progress before they transition fully to their new appointments;
b. Moving to the use of a single, consolidated database to identify potential jurors;
c. Reducing the use of civil juries for simplified procedure trials; and
d. Allowing the Ontario Judicial Council and Justices of the Peace Review Council to publish their annual reports on their websites after submitting them to the Attorney General.
3. FRAUD: THE GOVERNMENT WILL WORK WITH THE FINANCIAL SERVICES REGULATORY AUTHORITY OF ONTARIO (FSRA), A NEW, INDEPENDENT FINANCIAL REGULATOR, TO:
a. Overhaul the licensing system for health service providers to reduce regulatory burden and fraud, including lowering the treatment fees charged by providers; and
b. Reform the flawed medical assessment process to bring credibility and accountability to the assessments that injured claimants must undergo after an accident.
NB: “The government will also work with the Law Society of Ontario to make contingency fee
agreements more transparent for injured claimants who choose to hire a lawyer”.
4. MORTGAGE BROKERS AND LENDERS: THERE WILL BE A REVIEW OF THE MORTGAGE BROKERS, LENDERS AND ADMINISTRATORS ACT, 2006.
1. E-TRANSACTIONS: Adopting a digital first strategy to make more services available online and easier to use, moving away from in-person and paper-based transactions, helping to reduce costs.
2. AUTO INSURANCE: Making it easier to buy auto insurance, including giving drivers more choice when deciding which auto insurance coverage suits their needs and gives them more control over their rates. Adopting a “care, not cash” default clause to ensure that a driver’s auto insurance coverage will pay for treatment (“instead of costly legal fees”). It will also provide for an improved early treatment system, and a return to the default benefit limit of up to $2 million for those who are catastrophically injured in an accident. Makes note of upcoming reforms to the medical assessments process.
3. ESTATE TAXES: Proposing to provide tax relief for families when they need it most. The death of a loved one is a difficult time for families. Effective January 1, 2020, the Estate Administration Tax would be eliminated for taxable estates with assets of $50,000 or less, and would be reduced by $250 for larger taxable estates.
4. RED TAPE: Cutting red tape by 25 per cent by 2020. Once fully implemented, these changes are expected to provide Ontario businesses with over $400 million in ongoing savings on their compliance costs. Red tape reduction legislation will be introduced each fall and spring
throughout this gov’ts mandate