Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy’s 2021 budget contains significant new spending on health care and for new hospital spaces, with an additional $5.1 billion pledged to create more than 3,100 additional hospital beds.
The spending includes $1.8 billion in 2021–22 to continue providing care for COVID‐19 patients, address surgical backlogs and keep pace with patient needs, Bethlenfalvy stated.
The budget also refers to Hamilton’s LRT project as a top-five transit priority for the province.
The fiscal package, delivered in the legislature this afternoon, was billed as Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy.
“You can’t have a healthy economy without healthy people,” said 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.”
Ontario is projecting a $38.5-billion deficit in 2020–21. The government projects declining deficits of $33.1 billion in 2021–22, $27.7 billion in 2022–23 and $20.2 billion in 2023–24.
The province’s real gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have declined by 5.7 per cent in 2020. As the economy recovers, Ontario’s real GDP and employment are both forecast to surpass their pre-pandemic levels in early 2022.
The capital plan includes:
∙ Spending of $2.8 billion for broadband infrastructure. Combined with prior commitments, the new funding increases Ontario’s investment in broadband to nearly $4 billion over six years beginning in 2019–20.
∙ The province will spend $61.6 billion over the next 10 years in public transit, including the five priority transit projects (four subway projects in the Greater Toronto Area and the updated Hamilton LRT project), the GO Rail Expansion program and the Kitchener GO Rail Expansion project.
∙ $30.2 billion over the next 10 years, including an additional $3 billion since the 2020 Budget, in hospital infrastructure. New spending in major hospital projects currently under
construction or in various stages of planning include support for a new inpatient care tower in Etobicoke and a complete rebuild of the Mississauga hospital in partnership with Trillium Health Partners; new construction at Peel Memorial, in partnership with William Osler Health System; expansion of inpatient beds and ambulatory care at London Health Sciences Centre; funding to support the planning of a new regional hospital in Windsor‐Essex; and support for a new hospital and a lodge in Moosonee, as well as a new ambulatory care centre on Moose Factory Island.
∙ Development of four previously announced new long‐term-care homes in Mississauga, Ajax and Toronto under the Long‐Term Care Accelerated Build Pilot Program. Construction is underway at all of the sites, with completion dates planned for early 2022.
∙ Spending for the development of a new children’s treatment centre in Chatham‐Kent.
∙ The government announced a second round of Ontario Small Business Support Grant payments to eligible recipients. Approximately 120,000 small businesses will receive an additional $1.7 billion through this 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.
∙ The government is allocating $1 billion in additional financial support to Ontario municipalities in 2021.
∙ 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.
∙ In total, the government will spend $614 million to provide workers with employment and training support, with $117 million targeted towards women, youth, people with disabilities, racialized and Indigenous people.
∙ Bethlenfalvy pledged $21 billion in funding over the next 10 years to expand and repair highways and bridges across the province.
∙ A total of $14 billion will be spent over the next 10 years to build and upgrade schools including first new school in Pickering in over 20 years.
∙ All told, the government is allocating $550 million in the 2020–21 school year to support 16,000 new learning spaces across 28 schools.
The Daily Commercial News will have more coverage on the budget in an upcoming article.