Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government unveiled its first pandemic-era budget today. The Ford government is adding $99.8 billion worth of deficit spending while providing tax cuts for businesses and handing out more cash to parents and seniors.
Finance Minister Rod Phillips said the three-year budget which lays out details of the next stage of the Tories COVID-19 response aims to “protect,” “support” and “recover.”
Here are the highlights of Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover:
Protect — $15.2 billion, including $7.5 billion in new funding, for the government’s urgent response to COVID-19. Highlights of the new funding include:
- Increasing average daily direct care from a nurse or personal support worker (PSW) per long-term care resident to four hours a day over a four-year period, making Ontario the leader among Canadian provinces in protecting our seniors.
- Making available $4 billion in 2021-22 and a further $2 billion in 2022-23 in dedicated support to protect people’s health and to support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Opening the new Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital site with a new emergency room, state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging and operating rooms. This is the first newly built hospital to open in Ontario in 30 years that adds net new capacity to the system.
Support — $13.5 billion, including $2.4 billion in additional supports for people and jobs. Highlights of the new funding include:
- Providing $380 million to parents through another round of payments, following the $378 million of funding in March of $200 per child up to 12 years old and $250 per child and youth with special needs up to 21 years old, through the Support for Learners initiative. This will assist with added costs of COVID-19, such as technology for online learning. This means a family with three young children, one of whom has special needs, would receive $1,300 in 2020 to support costs related to educational supplies and technology.
- Proposing the new Seniors’ Home Safety Tax Credit for the 2021 taxation year — a 25 per cent credit on eligible renovations of up to $10,000 — to help seniors stay in their homes longer by making their homes safer and more accessible. Seniors would be eligible regardless of their incomes and whether they owe income tax for 2021. Family members who live with them and support them would also be eligible.
- Investing an additional $60 million over three years starting in 2020-21 in the Black Youth Action Plan, doubling its base funding to extend the current program and create a new economic empowerment stream that will support Black youth in achieving social and economic success.
- Investing $100 million over two years for the Community Building Fund to support community tourism, cultural and sport organizations which are experiencing significant financial pressures due to the pandemic.
- Providing one-time emergency funding of $25 million for Ontario’s arts institutions to help cover operating losses incurred as a result of COVID-19.
- Providing an additional $1.8 billion in the Support for People and Jobs Fund over the next two years, 2021-22 and 2022-23, to remain responsive to emerging needs and continue providing supports for the people of Ontario.
Recover — $4.8 billion in new supports to build the foundation for a strong recovery fuelled by economic growth. Highlights include:
- Making additional investments of over $680 million over the next four years in broadband infrastructure which, combined with its prior commitments, increases Ontario’s investment to a historic nearly $1 billion to ensure communities across the province are connected.
- Bringing more jobs to Ontario with a comprehensive plan to address the job-killing high costs of electricity, saving medium-size and larger industrial and commercial employers about 14 and 16 per cent respectively, on average, on their electricity bills (at an additional expense of $1.3 billion over three years).
- Reducing property taxes on job creators and levelling the playing field by lowering high Business Education Tax (BET) rates for over 200,000 employers, or 94 per cent of all business properties in Ontario, to a rate of 0.88 per cent. This is creating $450 million in immediate annual savings and representing a reduction of 30 per cent for many businesses currently subject to the highest BET rate in the province.
- Responding to requests from local governments by proposing to provide municipalities with the ability to cut property tax for small businesses and a provincial commitment to consider matching these reductions. This would provide small businesses as much as $385 million in total municipal and provincial property tax relief by 2022-23, depending on municipal adoption.
- Ending a tax on jobs for an additional 30,000 employers by proposing to make permanent the Employer Health Tax (EHT) exemption increase from $490,000 to $1 million. With this additional relief about 90 per cent of employers would pay no EHT, saving them $360 million in 2021-22 that could be reinvested in jobs and growth.
- Committing to provide Ontario residents with support of up to 20 per cent for eligible Ontario tourism expenses to encourage them to safely discover Ontario in 2021, the year of the Ontario staycation.
- Connecting workers in the tourism and hospitality sector and others most affected by the pandemic to training and jobs with an investment of $180.5 million over 3 years, including a skilled trades strategy, an additional $100 million of dedicated investments through Employment Ontario for skills training, a redesigned Second Career program, and $59.5 million to acquire in-demand skills.
- Providing $500 million over four years to make government services more reliable, convenient and accessible through the Ontario Onwards Acceleration Fund.
The Tories put off delivering a full fiscal plan earlier this year, citing the economic uncertainty caused by the global health crisis.