November 5, 2020
The Province of Ontario tabled a record $182 billion dollar provincial budget, with a deficit of $38.5 billion. To put that in context, there has not been an Ontario deficit larger than $23.7 billion over the last 30 years. The provincial debt will grow by $30 billion dollars, costing $12.5 billion per year in debt serving costs. Increased costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a large increase in provincial expenses combined with a major decline in provincial revenues.
The Province introduced no new taxes in its new budget. This makes sense during an emergency and recession, but could cause concerns in the future if the government attempts austerity measures in future years. In the short term, the government has abandoned their commitment to a balanced budget as initially promised during the campaign.
Municipalities are facing funding shortfalls and budget challenges. The federal government is also in a record deficit position and will release their fiscal statement later this month. Not surprisingly, most international governments are also facing similar challenges as they respond to a second wave of a pandemic and an emergency response that has been ongoing since March.
The budget was broken down into three themes: Protect, Support and Recover. Normally, budget season falls in late March to early April. This year, as a result of the pandemic, the 2020 Ontario Budget was delivered in November, covering the 2020-21 fiscal year. Another provincial budget is expected in March of 2021, that will cover the 2021-22 fiscal year. The timing meant that many measures in the budget were announced previously. Some examples include:
Investing up to $4 billion for municipalities and transit systems to provide one-time assistance, in partnership with the federal government, to help local governments address budget shortfalls related to COVID-19 and maintain services.
Investing $510 million through the Social Services Relief Fund to help municipal service managers and Indigenous housing partners protect homeless shelter staff and residents, expand rent support programming and create longer-term housing solutions.
Providing over $1.5 billion for pandemic pay in partnership with the federal government.
Providing additional funding to help expand access to mental health and addictions supports and reduce wait times for services, including $176 million in 2020–21 for expanded community supports, as well as investing $19.25 million for mental health supports for postsecondary students.
Making available $1.3 billion in 2020–21 for the education sector to keep students, teachers and staff safe as schools reopen.
In total, $45 billion over three years have been spent on COVID-related measures, with one-third being new money.The budget did not include any new specific measures for early years and child care, housing and homelessness, or social assistance, beyond what was announced prior to the budget.
New budget announcements of interest to human services include:
Providing $380 million to parents through another round of payments through the Support for Learners initiative. This will assist with added costs of COVID?19, such as technology for online learning.
Making additional investments of over $680 million over the next four years in broadband infrastructure, which, combined with prior commitments, increases Ontario's investment to nearly $1 billion.
Connecting workers in the tourism and hospitality sector and others most affected by the pandemic to training and jobs with an investment of $180.5 million over three years, including a skilled trades strategy, an additional $100 million of dedicated investments through Employment Ontario for skills training, a redesigned Second Career program, and $59.5 million to acquire in?demand skills.
In the coming days, OMSSA staff will work with our partners and stakeholders to further analyze the implications for members within the budget and estimates. If you have questions about OMSSA's budget summary and reaction, please contact Darryl Wolk, OMSSA's Manager of Policy Development and Public Affairs.