The Province of Ontario has tabled a record-breaking budget with $187 billion in spending. The budget tabled on Thursday also contains nearly $100 billion worth of deficit spending over the next three years.
Finance Minister Rod Phillips handed down a delayed budget at Queen’s Park, detailing the path of spending the province will take in the coming months. He says while the 2019/2020 deficit will remain unchanged since the summer at $38.5 billion, but with the pandemic decimating the Ford Government’s ability to balance the budget, Queen’s Park is expected to spend another $99.8 billion through to 2023. It is hoped this will keep the provincial healthcare system topped up while continuing to provide more for seniors and parents. Phillips predicted a slow rollback of the deficit to $31 billion in 2021/2022 and to $28.2 billion in 2022/2023.
Thursday’s budget has some $7.5 billion in new funding earmarked for healthcare to fight COVID-19, on top of the $7.7 billion announced in the spring, for a total of $15.2 billion this year.
Financial relief for some parents is expected in this budget, as the province is offering every parent of a child under age 12 another $200 payment, just like that received in March. This move added $380 million to the budget. “That’s direct funding to parents to help support their students in school,” Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin told Barrie 360. “Even before this budget, we invested record numbers of building new schools, one that’s actually going into our area,” she added, referring to a previously announced school build in Innisfil.
Phillips says details are expected on a “staycation” tax credit soon, but will take the form of a 20 percent rebate on tourism costs for Ontarians in 2021.
The budget also provides supports for seniors, through a Seniors’ Home Safety Tax Credit, that could provide eligible applicants with up to 25 percent on a maximum of $10,000 in renovation spending. This includes projects like wheelchair ramps, support bars, and stair lifts.
Small businesses are expected to get a break out of this budget, with the province reducing the business education tax rate by about a third to 0.88 percent. It is expected this will lead to an annual savings of $450 million for some 200,000 businesses across Ontario. Commercial and industrial hydro users are also expected to get some $1.3 billion worth of rate reductions over the next three years, as stipulated in the budget. “That’s what this budget is about, giving that stability; everyone wants predictability,” said Khanjin. “That’s what this budget lays out, it says businesses can count on the government to be there, support them to weather the storm.”
Ford made no apologies for coming to the aid of businesses. “As (businesses) were leaving out the door a while ago – they were saying ‘how can we be competitive with the electricity costs here in Ontario’,” Ford told reporters.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath wanted to know why the education sector and public health units were not line for additional funds.
“He’s leaving 30 kids packed into classrooms; he has chosen to give no new money for public health,” she said.
Liberal leader Stephen Del Duca said the budget was a “betrayal.”
“It’s a betrayal of seniors who will die in nursing homes today – a betrayal of kids who have been packed into crowded classrooms and it’s a betrayal of parents who have been worried because their lives have been put at risk.”