By MPP Toby Barrett   

On the heels of a world health crisis, Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips tabled a budget to protect people’s health; support their jobs and the economy; while setting the stage for recovery.   

Total spending is projected to be $187 billion running a deficit of $38.5 billion and paying out $12.5 billion to service a debt of $343 billion.    

Ontario’s Covid-19 health response is now a projected $15.2 billion. The government is making available $4 billion in 2020-2021 and a further $2 billion in 2022-2023 to ensure the province can remain responsive in the fight against this pandemic.    

It also includes additional funding to support hospital beds, address the surgical backlog and purchase additional influenza vaccines. The government is also investing an additional $572 million in Ontario’s hospitals to support additional costs of Covid-19, including testing, assessment centres, laboratory and medical equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE).   

To protect long-term care residents from a second wave of Covid-19, and address long-standing issues in the system, Ontario is providing over half a billion dollars to enable necessary renovations and measures to improve infection prevention and control, allow for the purchase of more PPE, and to build a strong health care workforce.  

The province plans to increase the average daily direct care of long-term care residents from a nurse or personal support worker (PSW), to four hours a day. This additional care will be phased in over four years and will make Ontario the leader among Canadian provinces.  

To offset some additional Covid-19 costs, parents will once again receive $200 per child under the age of 12 and $250 for children and youth with special needs age 21 and under.   

The Ontario government is taking significant steps to protect seniors and allow them to stay in their homes longer. The province is proposing a new Seniors’ Home Safety Tax Credit for the 2021 taxation year, which would provide a 25 per cent credit on eligible renovations of up to $10,000. Seniors would be eligible regardless of their incomes and whether they owe income tax for 2021. Family members who have a senior living with them would also be eligible.    

Ontario is going further to make available additional support for the employers most affected by Covid-19. Measures include allowing local municipalities to cut property taxes, ending the Employer Health Tax exemption increase and addressing the price of electricity with cuts of 14 per cent for medium-sized businesses and 16 per cent for larger industrial and commercial.    

The cost of hydro is an important measure not only for existing businesses but also attracting new ones. It’s clear the province’s high commercial and industrial electricity prices are a barrier to investment that causes some to go elsewhere. The budget outlines a plan to reduce the costs of Ontario’s high-cost contracts with non-hydro renewable energy producers, which will be wound down once and for all. Starting on Jan. 1, 2021, a portion of the cost of these contracts, entered under the previous government, will be funded by the province, not ratepayers.   

As taxpayers understand, the current levels of government spending are neither sustainable nor desirable over the long run. But, as the global pandemic continues around the world, they remain necessary today.”  

When the pandemic is over, this budget will help position Ontario for recovery.  

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk