No surprises here: pandemic recovery the main focus of Ontario’s record-setting 2021 budget

A one-time $400 payment is coming to parents, double that of last year

The provincial government has handed down its second pandemic-era budget and it comes as no surprise lots of money is earmarked for recovery.

Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy handed down the $186.1 billion document on Wednesday afternoon, which represents the largest budget in Ontario. The budget, called Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy, contains $173 billion in spending which is a record amount for Ontario. The budget projects $33.1 billion in deficits, down from last year’s record-high $38.5 billion, but the province estimates it will take until 2030 to pay it off.

“When it comes to people’s health, the premier said he would spare no expense,” said Doug Downey, Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MPP.

Downey added the Finance Minister had previously said the price of inaction is too high.

The Ford Government’s latest budget will provide a one-time payment to parents, regardless of income, of $400 or $500 for a child with special needs. This is double the amount paid out by the province twice last year. The provincial government is also providing a temporary 20 per cent increase to a child care tax credit, which means some 300,000 low-income families will save an average of $1,500 on child care.

There was no new education spending highlighted in this latest budget, as the province will not renew its one-time $1.6 billion in COVID-related funding. Much of that money was from the federal government in the first place.

The budget contains more money for small businesses; the government’s Small Business Support Grant will provide a second payment to eligible small businesses of $10,000 to $20,000. Those businesses that received a first payment through this program will automatically receive the second.

“There are about 100,000 businesses across Ontario that have received a small business grant and they will automatically get a second amount the same as what they received in the first few days (of the pandemic),” said Downey.

“We’re trying to make it easy to get money to the frontlines and the people that are employing and operating businesses.”

Again, so we’re really trying to make it easy to get money to the frontlines, the people that are employing and operating businesses in small towns,

There was no mention in the Ford government’s budget of much-discussed paid sick days.

Queen’s Park will contribute an additional $1.8 billion to the healthcare sector this year over last, including $760 million for the creation of 3,100 new hospital beds and $300 million to help reduce surgical backlog across Ontario. Bethlenfalvy says a billion dollars has been earmarked for his government’s vaccination plan, and another $2.3 billion to support COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.

There are no new taxes or spending cuts out of this year’s budget.