By MPP Toby Barrett
As government MPPs, we are heartened to see the federal budget shares the same priorities our government identified in our 2021 Budget last month – protecting people’s health and our economy.
However, as the COVID crisis intensifies, we are disappointed to see there was no action announced in the federal budget in several key areas. These key areas include issues surrounding vaccine shortages as well as failure to impose stricter border measures to limit the introduction and spread of new and more contagious COVID variants that are causing the third wave.
In the face of weak border measures and limited vaccine supply, Ontario is doing what’s necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, the provinces can’t beat this third wave alone. We need the federal government to do its part. We need more vaccines and tighter entry restrictions from hotspots to prevent the onset of more variants of concern.
We were also disappointed to see yet again no movement on enhancing the Canada Health Transfer. While collaboration and new funding has helped to address key challenges over the course of the pandemic, COVID-19 has also underscored long-standing challenges facing the health system that require urgent action on the part of the federal government.
It is unfortunate the federal government would not meet the urgent, unanimous request of all of Canada’s premiers to significantly increase federal health care funding to cover at least 35 per cent of provincial-territorial health spending. This was a request made by premiers from all across the country. The original medicare deal was a 50:50 share, but the federal government presently contributes only 22 per cent.
While we welcome increased support for childcare, until this year, the federal government contributed 2.5 per cent to Ontario’s program. Ontario families need long-term financial support that is affordable and flexible. Not a one-size-fits-all approach. We are prepared to work with all levels of government to ensure parents can access childcare that meets their needs in their own communities.
Under the former Ontario Liberal government, child care was the most expensive in the country. That is unaffordable and unacceptable for working parents. This is why, under Premier Ford’s leadership, we are supporting the creation of over 30,000 childcare spaces and are focussing on affordability and choice by introducing the Child Care Tax Credit, providing $1,500 per family.
Eventually COVID-19 will be in the past and the road to fiscal recovery will begin. Ontario has outlined a plan in last month’s 2021 Budget that does not rely on tax hikes or cuts to government programs and services. Instead, economic growth leading to job creation and prosperity will drive the province’s recovery. While government can create conditions for growth, we know the people of Ontario will step forward to unleash the province’s full potential.
Protecting people’s health and the economy has been our government’s top priority since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is not just necessary to fight COVID-19 and saves lives—it is also the most sensible economic and fiscal policy. After all, without healthy people, you cannot have a healthy economy or a healthy province.
Hope is on the horizon. It is months, not years, away. Until then, we will maintain our unbroken focus on protecting people’s health and our economy.
Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk