Ontario’s 2021 Budget Focuses on Pandemic, Pandemic Relief and Vaccines

“Protecting People’s Health and the Economy” is the title on the 2021 -2022 Ontario Budget. Billed as “the second Budget the government has delivered during the pandemic,” and the first Budget for current Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy, the Government of Ontario aimed to address ongoing issues with the pandemic and province-wide vaccination program. The tally for the next fiscal year: $186 billion.

“Eventually the pandemic will be behind us. It is months, not years away,” said Bethlenfalvy in a statement. “We will get to that day through the hard work and sacrifice of Team Ontario. Our government is going to be there every step of the way to make good on our commitment to protect people’s health and jobs.

“When this chapter is finally closed, I’m confident that the people of Ontario are going to unleash the economic growth that is necessary for job creation, prosperity and a stronger province,” Bethlenfalvy added.

To get to the last chapter, the Provincial government plans on spending $1 billion for vaccination planning, $1.4 billion for PPE to protect frontline workers and vulnerable groups, and an additional $5.1 billion to help hospitals create 3,100 more hospital beds and address other needs.

For long-term care homes, the government is providing an additional $933 million over four years to help create 30,000 new beds, plus another $650 million specifically to combat COVID-19 in those homes. The government also announced that they will be investing $4.9 billion over four years to hire 27,000 new staff members to get to the recommended four hours of daily care for every patient in long term care homes.

The budget also provides an additional $175 million for mental health funding, plus money for construction projects at Peel Memorial Hospital and the Windsor-Essex regional hospital.

In terms of economic support, the budget is offering a job training tax credit, an increase to the CARE tax credit to help families pay for childcare, and another round of child support payments. There’s also more money for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, $400 million over three years to support tourism and hospitality initiatives, and another $2.8 billion to expand broadband.

The Ontario government is also making $50 million in grants available to support faith-based and cultural organizations, plus there will be nearly $1 billion more in fiscal relief for Ontario’s municipalities.

There is a cost to all this spending. Updated budget projects now indicate that Ontario will carry a deficit until the 2029-2030 fiscal year when the province is expected to post a slight surplus. The deficit for 2021-2022 is expected to be $33.1 billion, which is about $5 billion less than the $38.5 billion that’s expected for 2020-2021. In 2019, the Government of Ontario said that they intended to eliminate the deficit by 2023.

Despite that, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce greeted the budget as a good news story.

“Ontario’s 2021 Budget contains new funding for the hardest-hit sectors and communities, much-needed aid for women who have been deeply impacted by the pandemic, and initiatives related to tourism, training, and broadband infrastructure that will enable a strong economic rebound,” said Chamber President Rocco Rossi in a statement.

Ontario’s opposition parties though are seeing a lot of holes in the budget.

“This budget was an opportunity to give people the help they need to get to the other side, and to give folks a future with hope. This budget doesn’t do that,” said NDP leader Andrea Horwath, who pointed out a lack of additional funding for schools, no paid sick days, and too-long a timeline to deal with the desperate need in long-term care.

“If this were our budget, the NDP would invest urgently to get more help to the survivors in long-term care. But this budget maintains the disastrous status quo,” Horwath added.

“Throughout COVID-19, Premier Ford has been a day late and dollars short in taking action, and today’s budget drops the ball on getting all Ontarians through COVID safely and fails to lay the foundation for recovery,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in a statement, and attaching himself to many of the same concerns raised by Horwath.

“Ford’s budget fails to provide paid sick days or even paid time off for vulnerable workers to get a vaccine,” Schreiner added, repeating some the same concerns he raised earlier this week. “It’s clear Ford has failed to learn the essential lessons of the pandemic. This budget denies the multiple crises we are confronting. It is a business as usual budget.”

@fordnation  has decided the pandemic is already behind him, abandoning every Ontario family still in crisis,” said Liberal leader Steven Del Duca on Twitter. “Ontario Liberals are going to stay focused on you & your family – and we’re going to fight like hell to keep this province focused on what matters.”

You can read the complete budget document for yourself by clicking here.

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