Ontario to reveal budget Wednesday, spending will focus on COVID-19 recovery

The Ford government is expected to present a budget big on spending Wednesday afternoon at Queen’s Park. Sources tell 680NEWS it will be a plan aimed at getting Ontario through the pandemic.


The Ford government is expected to present a budget big on spending Wednesday afternoon at Queen’s Park. Sources tell 680NEWS it will be a plan aimed at getting Ontario through the pandemic.

The third full budget from the Ford government will be tabled by its third finance minister, Peter Bethlenfalvy.

His predecessor, Rod Phillips, resigned on New Years Eve after it was revealed he took a trip to St. Bart’s despite travel advisories.

In November, Phillips unveiled a record $189 billion budget featuring a $38.5 billion deficit. Those numbers are expected to swell further Wednesday.

Bethlenfalvy, who in line with tradition, will buy a new pair of shoes Wednesday morning, has already been busy making big spending pre-budget announcements: $933 million to increase and improve long-term care spaces last Thursday, $1.2 billion in hospital funding on Monday, and $3.7 million Tuesday to help seniors and people with disabilities get transportation to their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Sources tell 680NEWS that the government is not ready to take its foot off the pedal because Ontario remains in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis.

“I said right from day one, I will not hesitate to spend what it takes to protect people,” Premier Ford said Tuesday.

“We’re definitely protecting and investing in peoples’ health,” Bethlenfalvy said, adding that, “The second piece is supporting jobs.”

Along those lines, the government may look to a suggestion from Restaurants Canada to help out the troubled bar and restaurant sector by allowing establishments to buy alcohol from the LCBO at wholesale prices rather than the six per cent markup that’s currently paid.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation may not get much off its budget wish list, which includes reduced government spending on non-essentials, a plan to eliminate the budget deficit, and tax reductions.

Another big item to look out for is universal child-care. The finance minister’s former chief of staff wrote a newspaper op-ed Monday saying such a move would be wise as it would increase women’s participation in the labour force. When asked about this Tuesday, Bethlenfalvy said,”We’ll have a lot more to say about that.”

“The Premier made an unconditional promise to all Ontarians a year that we would do whatever it takes to protect people from this pandemic and spare no expense, and I have the privilege to be the Minister of Finance to support him and all our colleagues and all the people of Ontario to get that job done,” added Bethlenfalvy.

The biggest questions in Wednesday’s financial blueprint may be to what extent the government lays out a path out of the record deficit, and what exactly its plans are to boost an economy ravaged by the COVID-19 shutdowns.

The finance minister has suggested tax hikes are unlikely and so the government will need to find new, creative measures to boost its bottom line and tackle the massive amounts of red ink.

The next provincial election is just over a year away on June 2, 2022. Whatever tangible measures the government has in mind to spark the beaten up economy will need to be put in place now in order for Ontarians to see the results by the time they head to the polls.

Jacob Robbins-Kanter, a PhD candidate studying Canadian politics at Queen’s University, said he doesn’t expect the province will chart a path to balance in the budget since a third wave of COVID-19 is underway.

“We don’t know with these new variants of concern exactly what’s going to happen,” he said. “I don’t know that we’re at the stage where budget projections can account for a return to normalcy.”

The government hasn’t said if the budget will include a path to balance, although the finance minister has acknowledged that record deficits aren’t sustainable in the long term.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath said Tuesday that the Opposition would like to see the government bolster investments for long-term care and education.

The government must also provide paid sick days for workers to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as the vaccine rollout continues, she added.

“We want to see investments in jobs, we want to see investments … to keep people safe at work,” she said.

Liberal legislator John Fraser said the government should use the budget to hike pay for workers in the long-term care sector.

“The premier has been hedging his bets there,” he said. “You need to give them full-time jobs because he needs to stabilize the workforce there.”


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