2021 Provincial Budget – Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy

· by c.dambrosio@hamiltonchamber.ca

On March 24, the Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board, Peter Bethlenfalvy, released Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy. The 2021 Budget is the next phase of Ontario’s response to COVID-19 and is the second Budget the government has delivered during the pandemic.

The 2021 Budget builds on the government’s record investments in response to the global pandemic, bringing total investments to $16.3 billion to protect people’s health and $23.3 billion to protect our economy. Ontario’s COVID-19 action plan support now totals $51 billion.

Budget 2021 is divided into two pillars: Protecting People’s Health & Protecting Our Economy. Each pillar details measures for defeating COVID-19, fixing long-term care, protecting public health and outlines Ontario’s plan to support families, workers and employers respectively.

“The provincial budget means supports for the hardest-hit sectors and communities including Hamilton, much needed aid for women who have been deeply impacted by the pandemic, and initiatives that will create a strong economic rebound.” – Keanin Loomis, President & CEO, Hamilton Chamber.

Ontario’s business community welcomes the 2021 Budget. Click here to read the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s response to Ontario’s Action Plan.

Highlights from each pillar include:

Protecting People’s Health

  • To vaccinate every person in the province who wants to be vaccinated, Ontario has made more than $1 billion available for a provincewide vaccination plan. Ontario is also making it safer to re-engage with workplaces, businesses and communities with $2.3 billion for testing and contact tracing.
  • To ensure that every person who requires care in a hospital can access a bed, even during the worst of the pandemic, the government is investing an additional $5.1 billion to support hospitals since the pandemic began, creating more than 3,100 additional hospital beds. This includes $1.8 billion in 2021–22 to continue providing care for COVID-19 patients, address surgical backlogs and keep pace with patient needs.
  • To address decades of neglect and help those waiting to get into long-term care, Ontario is investing an additional $933 million over four years, for a total of $2.6 billion, to support building 30,000 new long-term care beds. Ontario is also investing $246 million over the next four years to improve living conditions in existing homes, including ensuring that homes have air conditioning for residents, so loved ones can live in comfort and with safety, dignity and respect.

Protecting Our Economy

  • To help workers with their training expenses, the government is proposing a new Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit for 2021. It would provide up to $2,000 per recipient for 50 per cent of eligible expenses, for a total of an estimated $260 million in support to about 230,000 people in 2021.
  • To support parents with the cost of child care and help them get back to the workforce, the government is proposing a 20 per cent enhancement of the CARE tax credit for 2021. This would increase support from $1,250 to $1,500, on average, providing about $75 million in additional support for the child care expenses of over 300,000 families.
  • To help small businesses that have been most affected by the necessary restrictions to protect people from COVID-19, Ontario is providing a second round of Ontario Small Business Support Grant payments to eligible recipients. Approximately 120,000 small businesses will automatically benefit from an additional $1.7 billion in relief through this second round of support in the form of grants of a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 — bringing the estimated total support provided through this grant to $3.4 billion.
  • To support Ontario’s tourism, hospitality and culture industries that have been among the most heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario is investing an additional $400 million over the next three years in new initiatives to support these sectors. This builds on previously announced investments of $225 million, bringing the total to more than $625 million since the pandemic began.
  • To connect homes, businesses and communities to broadband — which COVID-19 has demonstrated is a necessity, not a luxury — Ontario is investing $2.8 billion, bringing the Province’s total investment to nearly $4 billion over six years beginning 2019–20.

Click here to read the full release.

Hamilton specific references include:

  • $61.6 billion over 10 years for public transit, to continue to deliver on the government’s commitment towards priority projects such as the updated Hamilton LRT project, which has been added as a fifth priority transit project & the GO Rail Expansion program which will provide two-way, all-day service every 15 minutes over core segments of the network, and nearly double annual ridership by 2055.
  • Ontario is keeping its commitment to provide $1 billion in capital funding to implement the Hamilton Transportation Task Force’s recommendation for a higher‐order transit project and proceed with planning and design work for an updated light rail transit plan. Ontario and its municipal partners continue to jointly call on the federal government to commit at least 40 per cent funding towards an updated Hamilton Light Rail Transit project — with the objectives of improving access to the transportation network, reducing congestion and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.  
  • The expansion of Highways 6 and 401 between Hamilton and Guelph that will provide the needed capacity increase for Highway 401 and alleviate traffic congestion on Highway 6 — improving safety, traffic flow and network efficiency. Ontario will proceed with the next phase by constructing a new interchange for Wellington Road 34 on Highway 6 north of Highway 401 and relocating utilities. Early works are expected to begin in 2021.
  • The widening of Highway 6 South from Highway 403 to Upper James Street in the City of Hamilton, from two to four lanes for about nine kilometres. This stretch of highway is a significant trade corridor and a primary connection from John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport to the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area via Highway 403.