Based on the recommendations from OSPE’s 2017 submission to the Minister of Finance Charles Sousa, the provincial budget marked a number of important advocacy wins for Ontario’s engineers and engineering students, and is yet another clear indication of OSPE’s increasing influence with government.
Among OSPE’s other recent advocacy successes are the creation of Ontario’s new Chief Science Officer, a flurry of attention from both the media and the Ministry of Energy surrounding OSPE’s Power to Lead submission, and engagement from multiple ministries with OSPE’s 2016 excess soils report.
What OSPE Advocated
2017 Ontario Budget Included
↓ cost of electricity for ratepayers and businesses
↑ Access to low or no emission energy though the creation of a voluntary, interruptible electricity market to absorb Ontario’s over-supply
X Remove the social costs from ratepayers’ bills and redirect to tax-supported accounts
Reduce hydro rates by an average of 25% for households, as well as approximately 500K farms and small businesses
Eliminate the Debt Retirement Charge for commercial and industrial users by April 1, 2018
Relief for large and small businesses with expansion of the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI) threshold from one megawatt to 500 kilowatts for exposed sectors, including greenhouses
$100M to expand natural gas accessibility into underserviced rural, northern and Indigenous communities
Engineering Skills Gap:
↓ engineering skills gap through the creation of new Work Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunities
↑ university-industry partnerships and collaboration
↑ investment in K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) curricula
$190M for Career Kickstart Program, creating 40K new experiential learning opportunities in partnership with industry
Enhanced Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), to provide 210,000 students with free tuition
Additional $6.4B in Ontario’s education system
Improved mathematics and financial literacy curriculum for high school students. Plus, 60-minute/day math instruction for grades 1-8
↑ investment, especially for transportation and public transit
↑ engineering oversight for all projects
↑ project planning & prioritization
↑ expansion of GO Transit and the electrification of GO Regional Rail
↑ Ontario’s leadership in autonomous and zero or low emission vehicle technologies
$156B on infrastructure projects by 2027 as part of Ontario’s Long-Term Infrastructure Plan (LTIP)
$56B in transit infrastructure, including Light Rail Transit (LRT) projects in Mississauga, Brampton, Hamilton, Waterloo and Ottawa
Expand GO transit system, quadrupling current capacity from 1,500 to 6,000 trips/week by 2024
$26B for the development and repair of 400-series highways and in northern Ontario
Double the share of gas taxes for municipalities, providing funding for transit infrastructure
Funding for an Environmental Assessment for high-speed rail in the Toronto-Kitchener-London-Windsor corridor
Establish an Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network, and continued commitment to electric and hydrogen vehicle advancement program
Recently quoted in ReNew Canada, OSPE CEO Sandro Perruzza says, “It was great to see infrastructure investments and Highly Skilled Workforce initiatives catapulted into the top-five areas of spending growth. Adding the now doubled allotment of gas tax funding to municipalities, the cumulative flow of funds to infrastructure projects is significant. That’s good for Ontario and it will create new opportunities for a lot of our members.”
Other notable investments include $21M over three years to support the Ontario Bridge Training program. As OSPE’s 2015 labour market report revealed, only 21% of International Engineering Graduates (IEGs) worked as engineers or engineering managers. Continued government investment in programs like OSPE’s Exam Skills Preparation course has the potential to improve the labour market outcomes for IEGs, as well as support Ontario’s knowledge economy.
OSPE Vice Chair Jonathan Hack, P.Eng. notes, “I’m really pleased that the government has provided funding that will allow engineering graduates to gain on-the-job experience through programs such as the Ontario Centre of Excellence’s Talent Edge and MITACS Accelerate. It is important that we continue to invest in programs that enable engineering students and graduates to get that crucial ‘first job’ on their resumes, so they can then build upon that experience and enjoy a career in engineering, right here in Ontario.”
In the coming months, OSPE looks forward to continuing to work with decision-makers at Queen’s Park to address areas that were not included in the provincial budget, such as the Ring of Fire, and elevating the profile of Ontario’s engineers.
Photo credit for featured image: NullSynapse, Trillium, CC image flickr. Image cropped and resized.