Ontario’s mini-budget includes tax credits for workers, seniors and staycations

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Ontario’s mini-budget included tax credits for workers and seniors as well as a new one for staycations intended to promote travel within the province.

In the Fall Economic Statement (FES) released last Thursday, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy laid out the province’s spending priorities for the coming years which included spending on critical infrastructure, healthcare, workers and high-speed internet connections.

Minister Bethlenfalvy said investing in workers, health care and infrastructure is all linked. The $15 minimum wage, previously announced by Premier Doug Ford, is in the legislation as part of the fall economic statement.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario government introduced tax credits to help workers either retrain or improve their skills as well as one for home improvements that would help seniors age in their own homes or move in with family caregivers. Both of those tax credits, the Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit and the Seniors’ Home Safety Tax Credit, are now being extended into 2022.

In addition, the provincial government is introducing an Ontario Staycation Tax Credit, intended to encourage Ontarians to travel within the province starting January 1, 2022. 

The tax credit would refund 20 per cent of the costs of accommodation — hotel rooms, campsites, and cottage rentals, for example, would be eligible — up to $1,000 for an individual and up to $2,000 for a family, for a maximum credit of $200 or $400, respectively. People will be able to claim the tax credit when they file their 2022 taxes (so, in the spring of 2023). As it’s a refundable tax credit, even individuals who don’t have an income high enough to owe provincial income taxes will be able to claim it.  

It is increasing a child-care tax credit by 20 per cent, providing support of an average $1,500, up from $1,250.

The government also committed to building the controversial Highway 413 and the Bradford bypass. Additionally, for every dollar the FES dedicates to highways this year, the government is pledging to spend two dollars on transit: subways, GO trains, light-rail projects. Over 10 years, the province is proposing to spend nearly three times as much on transit projects as on provincial highways and double what it plans to spend on hospitals.

Ontario is putting an additional $549 million over three years into home and community care to expand home-care services, funding an estimated 28,000 post-acute surgical patients and up to 21,000 patients with complex health conditions. It will help in providing nursing and therapy visits and personal support services, the government says.

As well, the province is set to spend $342 million to add and upgrade the skills of more than 5,000 registered nurses and registered practical nurses and 8,000 personal support workers. Another $57.6 million will go toward hiring 225 more nurse practitioners in long-term care, starting next year.

Ontario is also planning to spend $22 million over three years to integrate clinical information between hospitals and long-term care homes in order to streamline re-admissions and give information to families.

Another $29 million is being put toward mental health funding for health-care and long-term care workers, children and youth with eating disorders, and post-secondary students.

Notably absent was any mention of any additional financial help for education.

After putting $10.7 billion toward Ontario’s COVID-19 time-limited funding this year, including school supports, the province plans to reduce it to $3.4 billion next year, and end it by 2023-24.

“Students, parents and education workers deserve answers on why Doug Ford would cut funding for our schools at a time when investing in schools is critical,” said Ontario Liberal Leader, Steven Del Duca. “Ford is stealing from our children’s future to help buy a highway for his ultra-rich friends.”

The province’s fall economic statement projects a deficit this fiscal year of $21.5 billion, lower than the budget’s $33.1-billion projection – largely due to higher-than-expected tax revenues and stronger economic growth.

Ontario’s deficit is projected to drop further to $19.6 billion in 2022-23, then $12.9 billion in 2023-24. The province’s net debt is set to crack the $400-million mark this year, though the $402-billion projection is down from a $440-billion projection from the budget.

 

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