Provincial budget delivers for Ontario says Thompson
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
With yet another shutdown in place and the fight against COVID-19 ramping up, the provincial government has released a budget that Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson says is focused on healthcare and economic recovery.
The provincial government’s budget announcement came late last month when Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy tabled his first provincial budget. One item that jumped off the page was that it could take the government until at least 2029 to balance its budget as a result of COVID-19 relief funding and other associated economic fallout.
Over the last year, the Ontario economy has shrunk by nearly six per cent. The budget includes benefits, grants and tax credits for families and businesses in addition to significant funding for the healthcare and tourism sectors.
In an interview with The Citizen, Thompson said that before the numbers could be crunched, it was important to remember that the province is still very much embroiled in a fight against the COVID-19 virus.
She says it’s appropriately referred to internally as an “action plan” that focuses on healthcare and jobs.
She reiterated the impact the budget will have on the residents of Huron and Bruce Counties by revisiting recent funding announcements in her riding, including the funding of new long-term care spaces in Southampton, Goderich and Wingham. She says such investments show the government is taking the threat of COVID-19 very seriously.
That long-term care home investment, she said, is part of an overall commitment of $933 million across the province for new long-term care beds.
She also pointed to an investment of over $50 billion across the province over the next four years to fight the pandemic, whether it’s personal protective equipment or other supplies.
Thompson says this year’s budget has really “pushed over silos” between different ministries, encouraging ministers and their staff to work with one another to find solutions that are in the best interests of the province.
Thompson also highlighted a number of small business grants designed to keep the province’s businesses profitable during the pandemic. She said she’s heard from many small businesses in both Huron and Bruce Counties that the provincial government’s small business grant has been a lifesaver for them.
She also noted a regional grant for Huron and Bruce Counties providing incentive for businesses to relocate to the area, as well as a $10 million grant for the agri-food sector aimed at providing assistance to wineries and cideries that have been adversely affected by the pandemic.
In regards to the years of deficits ahead, Thompson said the government is turning its eye towards recovery and growth and that requires spending in the interim.
The budget, as presented by Bethlenfalvy late last month, comes in at $186 billion. He is the third provincial treasurer to present an Ontario budget in as many years.
With the provincial deficit coming in at over $38 billion through 2020, the government forecasts a deficit of over $33 billion for the 2021/2022 fiscal year, which is based on a four per cent growth in the economy.
Bethlenfalvy presented two scenarios for balancing the books, saying that if the economy grows at a rate that’s faster than expected, the government could balance the budget by 2027, while if economic recovery slows, it could take until 2031/2032.