TORONTO – The Ford Government has brought down its budget.
Finance Minister Rod Phillips released Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover — the next phase of a comprehensive action plan to respond to the serious health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Ontario’s Action Plan now sets out a total of $45 billion in support over three years to make available the necessary health resources to continue protecting people, deliver critical programs and tax measures to support individuals, families and job creators impacted by the virus, and lay the groundwork for a robust long-term economic recovery for the province.
“COVID-19 has caused a global recession and Ontario has not been immune,” said Minister Phillips. “Every negative economic statistic represents a person who has lost their job, an anxious small business owner or a family struggling to make ends meet. Today we are providing new support to those who have been hardest hit, including parents, seniors and small business owners, while building on what has already been provided.”
Andrea Horwath, the leader of the Ontario New Democrats says that “Premier Doug Ford’s 2020 budget is waving a white flag in the battle against COVID-19, and telling people: you’re on your own”.
“Doug Ford is telling seniors in dangerously understaffed long-term care homes that more staff won’t come in this year – they’re on their own,” said Horwath. “He’s leaving more than 30 kids packed into classrooms. He’s chosen to give no new money to public health, leaving families at grave risk. Mr. Ford’s budget has no help for the jobs and small businesses at risk of disappearing. Workers aren’t even getting the paid sick days they need to stay home and stop the spread.
“He’s throwing in the towel on the fight against COVID-19, and telling people, families, and businesses that no help is coming.”
ProtectIn total, Ontario’s COVID-19 health response is now a projected $15.2 billion. The government is making available $4 billion in 2021-22 and a further $2 billion in 2022-23 to ensure the Province can remain responsive to evolving needs in the fight against the pandemic. The 2020-21 spending includes $2.8 billion to support the Province’s Fall Preparedness Plan for Health, Long-Term Care and Education — the most comprehensive and robust plan in the country to respond to the second wave of COVID-19. It also includes additional funding to support hospital beds, address the surgical backlog, and purchase additional influenza vaccines.
The government is also investing an additional $572 million in Ontario’s hospitals to support additional costs of COVID-19, including testing, assessment centres, laboratory and medical equipment, and PPE. This brings the total funding to hospitals above and beyond what was provided last year to over $2.5 billion. The Province is investing more than $18 billion in capital grants over 10 years to build new and expanded hospital infrastructure and address urgent upgrades, including repairs and maintenance to help modernize hospitals across Ontario.
To protect loved ones in long-term care from the second wave of COVID-19, and to address long-standing issues in the system, Ontario is providing over half a billion dollars to enable necessary renovations and measures to improve infection prevention and control, allow for the purchase of more personal protective equipment (PPE), and to build a strong health care workforce. While Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission is completing its review, the government is acting immediately to protect Ontario’s most vulnerable people. The Province plans to increase the average daily direct care of long-term care residents from a nurse or personal support worker (PSW), to four hours a day. This additional care will be phased in over the next four years and will make Ontario the leader among Canadian provinces. This ambitious plan will require significant changes in the long-term care sector, including recruiting and training tens of thousands of new staff.
“Since day one of the pandemic, protecting people has been our government’s number one priority,” said Minister Phillips. “The health risks of COVID-19 remain extremely serious. We are making available every necessary resource to keep people safe, including our loved ones in long-term care and our frontline health care heroes during the second wave and beyond.”
SupportThe government is now delivering an estimated $13.5 billion in total support for people and job creators as part of Ontario’s Action Plan. This additional relief will ensure families, seniors, businesses and workers are supported through the second wave of COVID-19 and beyond.
To help offset some of the additional costs of COVID-19, parents will once again receive $200 per child under age 12 and $250 for children and youth with special needs age 21 and under. This means a family with three young children, one of whom has special needs, would receive $1,300 in 2020.
The government is taking significant steps to protect seniors and allow them to stay in their homes longer. The Province is proposing a new Seniors’ Home Safety Tax Credit for the 2021 taxation year, which would provide a 25 percent credit on eligible renovations of up to $10,000. Seniors would be eligible regardless of their incomes and whether they owe income tax for 2021. Family members who have a senior living with them would also be eligible.
The Ontario government remains committed to supporting job creators through this unprecedented time. The government is making available $300 million in relief for eligible businesses in regions where the Province determines modified Stage 2 public health restrictions are necessary, or going forward, in areas categorized as Control or Lockdown. This will help cover fixed costs such as property taxes and energy bills. The government is also providing an additional $1.8 billion in the Support for People and Jobs Fund over the next two years to remain responsive to emerging needs and continue providing supports for the people of Ontario.
RecoverWhile COVID-19 will impact Ontario and the entire world for the foreseeable future, the 2020 Budgetbegins to build the foundation for a strong economic recovery fuelled by growth. The government is planning to invest $4.8 billion in initiatives that will support jobs now, while removing barriers that would hold Ontario back from a strong recovery from COVID-19. Among the major initiatives proposed by the government are a reduction of job-killing electricity prices, reducing taxes on jobs, connecting unserved and underserved communities with a historic investment in broadband infrastructure, and providing workers with skills training — including those impacted by the pandemic, such as tourism and hospitality workers — to help them connect to jobs needing high-demand skills.
The government is also acting immediately to reduce taxes for job creators and level the playing field by lowering high provincial business property tax rates to a rate of 0.88 percent for over 200,000 properties — or 94 percent of all business properties in the province. This would create $450 million in annual savings in 2021, representing a 30 percent reduction for many employers.
Ontario is going a step further to make available additional support for the employers most affected by COVID-19. The government has heard from some municipalities that they would like additional tools to provide more targeted tax relief to job creators in their community. Ontario is 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.
The province is also 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. This would save private-sector employers $360 million in 2021-22 that could be reinvested in jobs and growth. About 90 percent of employers would pay no EHT with this additional relief.
When employers are looking at Ontario as a place to do business, it’s clear the province’s high commercial and industrial electricity prices are a barrier to investment that causes some of them to go elsewhere. The 2020 Budget outlines a plan to reduce the burden on employers of Ontario’s high-cost contracts with non-hydro renewable energy producers, which will be wound down once and for all. Starting on January 1, 2021, a portion of the cost of these contracts, entered under the previous government, will be funded by the Province, not the ratepayers. This electricity cost relief would free up money that could be better spent creating jobs. Medium-size and larger industrial and commercial employers would save about 14 and 16 percent respectively, on average, on their bills starting in 2021. This means Ontario will go from having some of the least competitive electricity prices to prices that are more competitive than the average in the United States.
“All of us in Ontario are focused on getting through COVID-19,” said Minister Phillips. “It may be difficult to think about the future while still dealing with a global pandemic, but if we all do our part, COVID-19 will eventually be behind us. Our government has a responsibility to remove barriers to the growth necessary for job creation. The cost if Ontario falls behind while the rest of the world recovers is simply too high. We can’t afford to wait.”
The 2020 Budget provides transparency amidst a world of uncertainty, by outlining a flexible medium-term fiscal plan based on the latest economic projections. It also presents alternative scenarios demonstrating how the province’s fiscal outlook could change depending on the pace of the economic recovery. The government is projecting a deficit of $38.5 billion for 2020-21, which is unchanged from the deficit forecast at the time of the 2020-21 First Quarter Finances and reflects urgent spending necessary for the fight against COVID-19. Over the medium term, the government is forecasting steadily declining deficits of $33.1 billion in 2021-22 and $28.2 billion in 2022-23. Acknowledging the continued uncertainty of the global pandemic, the government plans to table a multi-year plan including a path to balance in the 2021 Budget by March 31, 2021.
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 percent 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 leveling 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 percent. 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.