Ontario Construction New staff writer
The construction of a new inpatient wing at the William Osler Health System’s Peel Memorial hospital in Brampton was a highlight of Wednesday’s provincial budget, though no timeline was provided.
Investments to support historic hospital expansion and construction projects also includes ongoing planning of a new regional hospital in Windsor-Essex.
Also announced Wednesday is an additional $933 million over four years, for a total of $2.6 billion, to support building 30,000 new long-term care beds and $246 million over the next four years to improve living conditions in existing homes. That plan includes ensuring homes have air conditioning for all residents.
Other spending highlights include:
- $8.4 million over three years to fund a crisis call diversion program within the Ontario Provincial Police, which may result in some calls being diverted to mental health services rather than police.
- An additional $175 million for mental health and addictions support programs.
- A new job training tax credit, which will provide up to $2,000 for an estimated 230,000 people in 2021. Only residents between 26 and 65 will be eligible.
- $2.8 billion to bring broadband access to more people across the province by 2025.
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.
“You can’t have a healthy economy without healthy people,” said Minister Bethlenfalvy. “For the past year, we have been focused on protecting people from COVID-19. Many challenges lie ahead. But with vaccines being distributed in every corner of the province, hope is on the horizon. We are ready to finish the job we started one year ago.”
The 2021 Budget builds on the government’s record spending in response to the global pandemic, bringing total investments to $39.6 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.
“Eventually the pandemic will be behind us. It is months, not years away,” said Minister Bethlenfalvy. “Our government is going to be there every step of the way to make good on our commitment to protect people’s health and jobs. When this chapter is finally closed, I’m confident that the people of Ontario are going to unleash the economic growth that is necessary for job creation, prosperity and a stronger province.”
Protecting health was declared the first priority of the 2021 Budget which includes several measures for defeating COVID-19, fixing long-term care and caring for people.
“Vaccines are the light at the end of the tunnel, and boots are on the ground to get vaccines into arms as they arrive in the province,” said Minister Bethlenfalvy. “We will continue to invest in our health care system today and for the long term, building on record investments since the start of the pandemic to create more hospital beds, build and improve hospitals, increase testing and fix long-term care.”
The goal is 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 earmarking $2.3 billion for testing and contact tracing.
Protecting the economy is the second pillar of the 2021 Budget.
The government has proposed 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.
Also, a second round of Ontario Small Business Support Grant payments will be made 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.
Also, a total $4 billion has been allocated over six years beginning 2019–20 to expand broadband internet access across the province.
Ontario is projecting a $38.5 billion deficit in 2020–21. Over the medium term, the government projects steadily declining deficits of $33.1 billion in 2021–22, $27.7 billion in 2022–23 and $20.2 billion in 2023–24.