Provincial budget to aid families, seniors, businesses says Thompson
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
The provincial budget, released last Thursday after being delayed for eight months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, includes a record deficit and no path to balance it, but Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson says the spending is necessary to get through the pandemic.
In an interview with The Citizen, Thompson said there will be record spending in the budget ($187 billion in total spending with a deficit of $38.4 billion) and a path to balancing the budget will be part of the 2021 budget. Right now, she said, the priority is working to help families and businesses stay strong during this unprecedented disruption.
When he tabled the plan in the legislature, Finance Minister Rod Phillips said he hoped the budget would “provide as much certainty as possible in an uncertain time.” He added that there is a greater degree of risk with the budget than normal.
Much of the new spending is focused on beefing up healthcare, with $7.5 billion earmarked for the sector over the next three years, as well as $2.5 billion more this year on hospitals than last year, which includes over $570 million directly for COVID-19 costs.
Phillips also said that under the province’s current plan, over 90 per cent of businesses in Ontario will see a reduction in their property taxes.
There will also be new spending for children and seniors. The government will provide another $200 directly to parents for each child under the age of 12 and $250 for every child with special needs under the age of 21. There is also a home renovation tax credit for seniors or families that have a senior at home, which the government hopes will result in elderly residents staying in their homes longer.
The status of the province’s deficit will depend on the rate of economic growth in Ontario, meaning that if the province’s economy rebounds quicker, the deficit will shrink faster than expected.
In an interview with The Citizen, Thompson said the budget is “good news for Ontario”, especially when it comes to an action plan to combat what the COVID-19 pandemic has done not only to residents and families, but to businesses and the economy.
Thompson said that while the budget will work to help the economy recover, it also acknowledges that Ontario is in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to work through that with Ontarians. To that end, she said the budget includes plenty of funding for urgent COVID-19 response projects.
She also said the support for businesses is crucial to keep people working. The benefits offered to small businesses specifically, she said, will help keep them in business and to perhaps hire another employee or two, which will stimulate the economy and ensure families have steady income streams.
In regards to the record spending levels, Thompson said the government has to spend money in order for the province to recover, so that figure shouldn’t shock too many people. She said the government needs to spend in order to keep the “cash flowing” for Ontarians.
She also said that the unusual step of not including a path to balancing the budget in this year’s plan is a symptom of the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the province’s next budget is tabled in March of 2021, she said there will be a plan put forward.
At the same time, Thompson said her government is aware that only so much debt can be carried forward every year.
In Huron and Bruce Counties, Thompson said, there is plenty to like about the budget, including the benefits for families with children and senior citizens. In addition, the tax credits being offered to small businesses should help them to reinvest in the people of the community.
She also said that the government plans to invest significantly in the tourism aspect of Huron and Bruce Counties when the time is right.
When the pandemic is under control and it’s safe for people to travel comfortably again, she said she’ll be working with the provincial government to reach out to Huron County and other local entities to draw people to this area. She said there is so much to love about the area when it comes to tourism, culture, heritage and sport, that she feels it will be an ideal location in which to invest once tourism is possible again in the traditional sense of the word. There is so much to see and do in Ontario, she said, and this will help encourage residents to explore within their own province, keeping themselves safe, while finding the beauty in their own backyard. She said Huron and Bruce Counties are uniquely well-positioned to take advantage of tourism dollars that stay within the province.
For more information or to read the budget in its entirety, visit the government’s website at ontario.ca.