Auditor General Report Ministry of Economic Development
As part of its efforts to support economic development and employment in Ontario, the provincial government provides multi-year grants and interest free loans for businesses to help with projects ranging from expansion to export growth to research and development.
From 2004 to May 31, 2015, the Ministry funded 374 projects for grants and loans, with a total of $1.87 billion in grants being awarded through the following seven funds:
- Ontario Automotive Investment Strategy
- Advanced Manufacturing Investment Strategy
- Next Generation of Jobs Fund
- Eastern Ontario Development Fund
- Southwestern Ontario Development Fund
- Strategic Jobs and Investment Fund
- Jobs and Prosperity Fund
Although grants are available to companies, they are not always easily accessible. In fact, there is little transparency in how funding is awarded. According to the report, since 2010, about 80% of total approved funding was made through non-publicly advertised processes in which only selected businesses were invited to apply. It appears that the Ministry made an internal determination of which businesses were to be invited, rather than making the funds more broadly available to the public. In addition, funding was often awarded without a needs assessment. This means that some projects were funded even though there was evidence that the project would carry on without government assistance. The report also observed that supports were “highly skewed”, or not equitably distributed, with over 30% of funding going to larger, older businesses that represent less than 1% of all the businesses in Ontario.