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New medical school and helicopters: Here’s what else is in the 2024 Ontario budget

Ontario’s 2024 budget is the largest in the province’s history, with billions earmarked for important sectors such as health, education and housing.

However, it also includes promises for some previously unheard of policies and projects.

Here are some of the quirkier highlights from the budget:

York medical school

The Progressive Conservatives are partnering with York University in Vaughan, Ont. to build a new medical school specifically for family physicians.

Few details have been provided on this new initiative, with officials saying that about $9 million has been put aside for planning.

The government says this will be the first medical school in Canada primarily focused on training family doctors.

It’s unclear why York University was chosen as the partner institution for this new endeavor, as a December auditor general report found that an overreliance on international students and steadily decreasing domestic enrolment was putting the institution at risk.

Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said he was not concerned about the university’s financial situation while speaking with reporters on Tuesday.

“I know York will do an amazing job,” he said.

Helicopters for GTA

The province is spending $36 million over three years to “support patrol and improve response times to major incidents and serious crimes” in the Greater Toronto Area.

This includes the purchase of four helicopters.

Officials noted that Ontario Provincial Police will be responsible for procurement of the helicopters, which will go to Halton, Durham, Peel and Toronto.

Infrastructure Bank gets a new name

In November, the government announced it would be launching a $3 billion “infrastructure bank” that would help spur community development.

In Tuesday’s budget that infrastructure bank got a new name: the Building Ontario Fund.

Officials said that a board of directors is looking into “developing a detailed process to ensure there is appropriate criteria for selecting projects and partners in priority areas.”

The government also said it would be putting forward legislation to support the Building Ontario Fund’s mandate as an independent, arm’s-length agency.

More provincial park campsites

The last few budgets included promises to build new provincial parks while this year the government is pledging to increase the number of campsites across Ontario.

Officials have said the government will bring electrical services to over 800 existing campsites at the following parks:

  • Neys Provincial Park
  • Lake Superior Provincial Park
  • Killbear Provincial Park
  • Arrowhead Provincial Park
  • Sandbanks Provincial Parks

They will also add about 300 new campsites to seven other provincial parks across Ontario.

Preliminary details on Bigwind Lake Provincial Park’s expansion were made public last week.

Protecting students from vaping

Ontario will invest $30 million over three years to “equip schools with security cameras, lighting and other security upgrades, including vape detectors.”

Tuition freeze remains in place

The province has already said it would freeze tuition for another three years while pledging an additional $1.3 billion in funding to stabilize post-secondary institutions.

Experts recommended a one-time, 10 per cent increase in per-student funding to colleges and universities, followed by inflationary increases, in addition to a five per cent tuition increase.

Bethlenfalvy did not seem to be concerned about the finances of universities and colleges on Tuesday, focusing on how the tuition freeze will make post-secondary education more affordable for students.

Correction – March 26, 2024: This article has been updated from a previous version that said the province had allocated $900 million for the new medical school in Vaughan. In fact, the government is allocating $9 million for the school.