The Progressive Conservative government of Ontario revealed its first budget on April 11. Media outlets have made much of the fact that Doug Ford and Co. seemed to be unduly focussed on alcohol consumption and availability. The government projects that it will not be able to balance the budget until 2023-2024, which would be after the next election, likely to be held in June 2022. Here are a few things in the budget, if the legislation passes, that may be of interest to cottagers.
1. About all that booze: Municipalities will soon be able to allow alcohol consumption in public spaces, such as in parks. Restaurants, bars, and golf courses will soon be able to serve alcohol starting at 9 a.m. Tailgating—partying in the parking lot at a sporting event—will now be a thing in Ontario. And you’ll soon see more beer and wine for sale at convenience stores, big box stores, and more supermarkets.
2. The government proposes to “fix the broken auto insurance system,” with several measures, including introducing a Driver Care Card, to “streamline access to care and make the claims process easier”; letting insurance companies offer “more discounts and options, as well as innovative new products, such as pay-as-you-go insurance”; and “reducing red tape by improving the way auto insurance rates are regulated.”
3. Health care across the province is about to change, with existing health agencies and Local Health Integration Networks combined into a new entity called Ontario Health. The goal with this is “to streamline health care oversight, reduce health care bureaucracy and reduce siloed regional administration.”
4. More highway construction is in the works, with projects in the planning and design stages or already underway, including the four-laning of sections of Hwys. 69 and 11/17 in Northern Ontario, including stretches between Kenora and the Manitoba border.
5. And the government is launching a new brand identity for the province, with licence plates being the most visible symbol, featuring new colouring (blue with white lettering), a new slogan (“A Place to Grow”), and a new trillium symbol. The stated intention of all this rebranding? It’s “an ambitious effort to ensure all government activities reflect and reinforce a simple common brand standard rooted in the qualities of Trust, Responsiveness, Better Customer Experience, Caring and Fairness.” Um, sure.