The Ontario government revealed its proposed spending plan for the 2021-22 fiscal year on Wednesday, and the document contained money for key pandemic purchases but skipped some items critics say are necessary for a successful recovery.
The $186 billion budget includes $173 million of spending on programs, up from $152 million last year.
Here’s a breakdown of seven things you need to know
Deficits for the coming decade
Government officials predict hefty budget deficits for the better part of the coming decade as the province spends on pandemic supports and the economy slowly recovers. Deficits are forecast to come down to pre-pandemic levels sometime between 2028 and 2032.
Ontario’s pre-pandemic deficit sat at $8.7 billion in 2019-20, and that ballooned to $38.5 billion in 2020-21 as the pandemic struck. The budget deficit for 2021-22 is forecast to be $32 billion.
Spending on health-related COVID-19 initiatives
Large sums are set aside for mass vaccination ($1 billion), expanding testing and contact tracing ($2.3 billion), increasing care hours in Ontario’s long-term care homes ($4.9 billion over four years), and adding more long-term care beds ($2.6 billion).
No funding for paid sick days
One pressing oversight from this year’s budget is a lack of attention to paid sick days, according to official opposition leader Andrea Horwath. Public health experts and labour advocates alike cite paid sick days as a key tool in reducing COVID-19 transmission.
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Higher pandemic payouts for parents
Ontario will provide another round of direct payments to parents of children in Grade 12 and younger. Through the Ontario COVID‑19 Child Benefit, eligible parents or guardians will receive $200 to $400 per child, or $500 if that child is under 21 with special needs.
Money for high-speed internet
The budget contains an additional $2.8 billion to help connect rural homes and businesses to the internet. With COVID-19 moving many students and workers to virtual settings, officials say the pandemic demonstrated reliable internet connection is a necessity.
Another round of grants for small business
The provincial government is setting up the second iteration of Ontario Small Business Support Grant payments to distribute $1.7 billion in relief. It estimates 120,000 small businesses will automatically benefit from the grants, which will be distributed in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $20,000.
Tourism sector gets more help
Ontario is also setting aside $400 million specifically for the hard-hit tourism and hospitality sectors. This brings money for helping tourism to $625 million since the pandemic began.