Ontario’s new $186.1 billion budget shows a $33.1 billion deficit not expected to be paid until 2029.
Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy says the province’s economic recovery will come as COVID-19 restrictions get loosened.
“I’m an optimist and I’m betting on the people of Ontario to beat this pandemic…and we will,” he told the Vista National News Desk. “When we get those vaccines and we can safely reopen the economy, I think we’ll see the economic engine of Ontario that once was, reemerge.”
For the smaller communities in Ontario, Bethlenfalvy says his government’s $2.8 billion into broadband infrastructure is something to look forward to.
“This is a province-building moment in my mind. We’ve seen justice go online, healthcare go online, education is more online, but many of our smaller communities do not have good connectivity,” he said.
Over $4 billion will be spent on broadband infrastructure over the next four years.
The Ontario Government will also double the amount of money parents can receive through child support grants. Parents of children up to Grade 12 can receive $400 and $500 for children with special needs.
The government is also planning to introduce up to 30,000 new child care spaces in the province.
“Women have been disproportionately hit in this pandemic. I recognize that. Our government recognizes that. So we’re increasing the number of childcare spaces,” Behtlenfalvy said.
Support for small businesses will continue with the new budget, with grants programs providing up to $20,000 for eligible businesses. The new budget also sees more funding for the tourism and hospitality sectors.
Bethlenfalvy says small businesses are the “backbone of Ontario” and will be important to the province’s economic recovery.
Meanwhile, teachers unions have slammed the Ford budget for a lack of spending on education. In a joint statement from the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), and Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO), they claim the Ford government has failed to deliver a budget that keeps up with the rate of inflation and enrollment.
The unions say the government’s refusal to spend money to keep schools safe has led to “deeply concerning health and well being impacts for education workers, including hospitalization.” The unions are calling on the province to invest in lower class sizes, enhanced safety measures, mental health support, and support for students with special education needs.