The provincial government’s latest Budget, announced on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, continues its commitment to the construction section and workers.

That was certainly music to the ears of Local 793 Business Manager Mike Gallagher, who attended the announcement at Queen’s Park as a guest of Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development David Piccini.

Titled Building a Better Ontario, Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy said the budget expands the most ambitious capital plan in the province’s history, with $190.2 billion in spending over the next decade.

That figure includes another $100 million in the Skills Development Fund Training Stream, which funds training for workers in key industries, including the skilled trades. Local 793 receives funding from this program to help pay for training provided by the Operating Engineers Training Institute of Ontario (OETIO).

There is also $21 million of new money for the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program and $42 million to launch 100 pre‐apprenticeship training projects around the province.

The beefing up of the Skills Development Fund was welcomed by Business Manager Gallagher. He said, “It’s a very positive thing for us as a Union as we utilize that fund through OETIO. It represents an investment in the future of the skilled trades and is an important part of the larger strategy to ensure this province has the skilled workers it needs to keep growing.”

Other infrastructure investments laid out in Budget 2024 will also keep current members busy for many years.

To help municipalities meet their housing targets, a $1 billion Municipal Housing Infrastructure Program has been created, while there is $625 million more for the Housing-Enabling Water Systems Fund, bringing total funding to $825 million. This is on top of the existing $1.2 billion Building Faster Fund.

These investments are designed to help the province reach its goal of building at least 1.2 million homes by 2031.

The government also committed $200 million to a Community Sport and Recreation Infrastructure Fund to support new and upgraded sport and recreation facilities.

Investments in roads and transit are also being stepped up, including recommitting to building Highway 413, Highway 7 and the Bradford Bypass, although details on timelines and costs remain undecided. In Ottawa, a new interchange at Highway 416 and Barnsdale Road will support future growth in the south of the city.

New transit spending, amounting to an extra $3 billion, includes expanding the Hazel McCallion Light Rail Transit Line transit to downtown Mississauga and Brampton, including a two‐kilometre extension and loop through to Confederation Parkway.

The province also remains committed to its four major subway projects in the GTA, the Ontario Line, Scarborough Subway Extension, Yonge North Subway Extension into York Region, and the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension.

One new measure in the Budget that did concern Business Manager Gallagher was the item relating to auto insurance reform. Under the new rules, drivers would still pay into mandatory auto insurance to cover health and personal injury, but would have the option to opt out of paying for coverage for other benefits, including damage to property, death benefits and income replacement benefits.

One reason for the change is that the government says some drivers are paying for coverage they already have through their existing workplace benefits.

However, Brother Gallagher said, “My concern is that members would look to cut their immediate insurance costs in the hope that the Union plan would cover the difference should they be involved in an accident.”

He recommended that members stick with their current level of auto insurance until the Union and its benefits administrator, OEBAC, has had a chance to study the impact the changes would have on its plan so that no member risks being left under-insured in the case of an accident.