Volume 12 Week 5

Friday, Nov. 17


 

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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette

Beacon Hill,
Cyrville Ward
Tim Tierney



 

 

 

   


(Updcated 11 a.m., April 30)
Universal drug program for children and youth just one benefit for local residents in provincial budget

By Fred Sherwin
The Orléans Star

Ottawa-Orléans MPP Marie-France Lalonde announces the government's new OHIP-plus universal drug program for children and youth up to age 24 with Ottawa-South MPP john Fraser at the Innes Road Shopper's Drug Mart on Friday. Fred Sherwin/Photo

With one eye fixed on next year's election, the Liberal government unveiled the provincial budget on Thursday with several goodies that should appeal to their base supporters.

Key among them is the new universal drug program for children and youth which was unveiled in Orléans on Friday at the Shopper's Drug Mart location at Innes and Mer Bleue Road.

The program, dubbed OHIP plus. will make prescription drugs free for all youth, 24 and under, as of January 1, 2018. The iniative, which comes with a $486 million price tag, will allow individuals to simply provide their Ontario Health Card number with their prescription.

Coverage will be automatic, with no upfront costs, and will include drugs to treat cancer and rare diseases.

"This is a game-changer for residents in Ontario," said Ottawa-Orléans MPP Marie-France Lalonde. "We are the first jurisdiction in Canada to introduce such a program. We believe that every individual should have access to prescription drugs and particulary children and youth in need up to age 24."

The universal drug program is part of the Liberal government's plans to invest $7 billion in health care services over the next three years, $890 million of which will be used to reduce waiting times for hip, knee and cataract surgeries.

Another $1.44 billion will be spent in the 2018-2019 fiscal year as part of the government's plan to reduce hydro rates by an average of 25 per cent starting this summer, and its commitment to freeze future rate increases to the rate of inflation while providing an eight per cent rebate to cover the provincial portion of the HST starting January 1, 2017.

The Liberals also plan to spend more than $200 million in next fiscal year to increase accessibility and affordability of licensed child care centres; another $85 million will be invested in the creation of additional long-term care facilities; and $100 million has been earmarked over the next three years to help seniors suffering from dementia.

Post-secondary students who are graduating this summer and will miss out on the government program announced in last year's budget which will provide free tuition for students whose parents make less than $90,000 starting this September, won't have to start paying back their OSAP loans until they make over $35,000.

Despite all the spending, the Liberals are forcasting balanced budgets for the next three years after 10 years of deficits during which the overall provincial debt increased $90 billion to $332.4 billion.

Now that economic growth is generating an increase in provincial revenues to the point where there's enough money to produce a balanced budget, pay down the debt, or reduce taxes, depending on the priorities of the government of the day, Lalonde is adament that Ontario residents want to see the government invest in health care and education.

"Our commitment remains strong on health care, including access to mental health services; education, where we plan to reduce class sizes to 25 for Grades 5-8; and in providing Ontarians with decent quality of life by indexing the minimum wage," said Lalonde.

The debate over whether or not the increase in provincial reveues should be spent on infrastucture and social programs, or paid back in the form of tax cuts will be debated hotly over the coming months and into next year's provincial election.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)

 

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