A budget to protect health and bring back jobs

By MPP Toby Barrett  

As the world continues to wade through a world health crisis, Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy released the 2021 Ontario Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy. It is our government’s plan to defeat COVID-19 and finish the job we started one year ago.

Total projected spending is $186 billion, with a deficit of $33.1 billion, paying out $13.1 billion in interest to service debt of $441 billion.

An Ontario-wide vaccination plan ($1 billion) will ensure every person in Ontario who wants the vaccine will receive it.

Timely access to high-quality health care is critical. To assist hospitals to keep pace with patient needs, over the next year we will provide an additional $5.1 billion and add 3,100 new beds – this is equivalent to six large hospitals. Another $1.8 billion will help address surgical backlogs.

COVID-19 highlighted decades of neglect in long-term care (LTC). To address this chronic underinvestment, and to help those waiting to get into LTC, we will invest $2.6 billion to support building 30,000 LTC beds while upgrading 16,000 spaces. We will also inject $4.9 billion, over the next four years, to increase the average daily direct care per resident to four hours – up from 2.75.

For seniors wishing to stay in the homes they love, longer, Ontario will introduce the Seniors Home Safety Tax Credit. It will provide roughly $30 million to about 27,000 seniors and those who live with senior relatives.

We must also protect and support our economy. Families have faced new pressures and expenses therefore, we will provide a third round of payment through the Ontario COVID-19 Child Benefit. Further, to support parents with childcare costs and to get people back to work, the government proposes a 20 per cent enhancement to the CARE tax credit for 2021 – increasing average support from $1,250 to $1,500.

A new Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit will help workers with training expenses by providing up to $2,000 per recipient for 50 per cent of eligible costs.

Small business has been hard hit — a second round of the Ontario Small Business Support Grant will automatically benefit about 120,000 businesses. Ontario’s tourism and hospitality will receive an additional $400 million over the next three years, bringing the total to more than $625 million since COVID-19 began.

Broadband is a necessity, not a luxury. We will provide another $2.8 billion to the already $4 billion committed to connect homes, businesses and communities.

Last but certainly not least, Ontario is committed to supporting the folks who feed us – farmers, farm workers and food processors. The province will invest $10 million in 2021-2022 for a one-year extension to the Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program. Further, pandemic-related challenges have resulted in disruptions in some meat processing facilities, affecting the food supply chain and causing livestock to back-up on farms.  In response, Ontario will inject up to $5 million in 2021–22 for a one-year extension for AgriRecovery initiatives, including those related to livestock processing capacity, such as beef and pork set aside programs. 

Ontario is taking further action to work with our agri-food sector to ensure it has the capacity to continue to supply us with safe, high-quality food. 

We will beat Covid-19 and we will move on – Budget 2021 will position Ontario to speed down the road to recovery.

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk