Ontario Unveils Its 2020 Budget

By: Laura Steiner
Ontario has unveiled its 2020 provincial budget.  Finance Minister Rod Phillips broke down the annual financial outlook that would help the province recover from COVID19 yesterday into a three-year plan.
It calls for $45 billion worth of spending under the headings: Protect, Support, and recover.  The highlights:
Protect:  $15.2 billion with approximately half or $7.5 billion in new spending. It calls for $4 billion in 2021-2022 and $6 billion in 2022-2023 in order to meet evolving needs while fighting the COVID-19 costs.  $572 million will be invested in hospitals to support COVID-19 related costs including testing, assessment centres, laboratory and medical equipment.  Approximately half a billion will go long-term care needs including hiring additional Personal Support Workers.
“Since day one of the pandemic, protecting people has been our number one priority,” Phillips said.
Support: $13.5 billion, including $2.4 billion in new spending. The province will give parents with special needs’ children’ $200/ child under 12 years of age, and $250 for children and youth with special needs under the age of 21.  It’s estimated a family with three children could receive an extra $1300.  Beginning in the 2021 tax year the province proposes a  25% Home Safety Tax Credit for seniors on home renovations of up to $10,000.  The Province will continue to make available a $300 million fund of businesses in regions to be designated “Control’ (orange) or “Lockdown” (grey) to help cover property taxes, and energy bills.
“We are providing new support for those who have been hardest hit, including parents, seniors and small business owners while building on what has already been provided,” Phillips said.
Recover: $4.8 billion in new spending. The Province proposes to lower provincial property tax rates to .88% which will affect 94% of the businesses in the province leading to an estimated savings $450 million in 2021 or 30%.  The province also proposes to increase the Employment health tax exemption from $490,000 to $1 million.  They also propose to give municipalities new tools to help job creators, allowing them to cut property tax for small businesses, adding up to a $385 million savings for businesses by 2022-2023 depending on municipal adoption.
“Our government has a responsibility to remove barriers to the growth necessary for job creation,” Phillips said.
Opposition Leaders react to Phillips’ Budget
The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP)  criticizes the budget for its approach to healthcare.  “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,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said.   The PC’s announced efforts to increase daily direct care for seniors from two to four hours.
The Ontario Liberal Party (OLP) is calling the budget a betrayal.  “Doug Ford’s budget does nothing to protect our parents, and grandparents in nursing homes and nothing to protect our kids stuffed into crowded classrooms,” OLP Leader Steven Del Duca said.
Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner was hoping for more.  “If the Premier is serious about fixing long-term care, then he didn’t show it today with an unfunded promise to raise the standards of care to four hours,” Schreiner said in a statement on the Green Party’s website.  Schreiner would’ve liked to see $1.8 billion to hire new PSWs and nurses necessary to deliver on the care.  To read more on the Ontario budget visit this link.