The Ontario government released its economic statement on Thursday, projecting a deficit this fiscal year of $21.5, boosting health spending, investing more into roads and bridges, and phasing out COVID-19 support.
The government puts an additional $549 million over three years into a home and community care to expand home-care services, funding an estimated 28,000 post-acute surgical patients and up to 21,000 patients with complex health conditions. It says this fund will help in providing nursing and therapy visits and personal support services, the government says.
The province is set also to spend $342 million to add and upgrade the skills of more than 5,000 registered nurses and registered practical nurses and 8,000 personal support workers. Another $57.6 million will go toward hiring 225 more nurse practitioners in long-term care, starting next year.
Commitments are being made to build Highway 413 from Vaughan to Milton and the Bradford Bypass north of the GTA. The government has not said how much the roads will cost. It is also allocating $2.6 billion for this year to expand and repair highways and bridges. The plan projects no new spending for building schools or hospitals.
Opposition critics have questioned the value of those projects, including whether the routes were planned to benefit allies of Premier Doug Ford, how much time they will save commuters, and the impacts on the environment.
The government has said Highway 413 would help alleviate congestion across the York, Peel and Halton regions. The Bradford Bypass would connect Highway 400 and Highway 404.
After putting $10.7 billion toward Ontario’s COVID-19 time-limited funding this year, including school supports, the province plans to reduce it to $3.4 billion next year, and end it by 2023-24. Without including the COVID-19 time-limited funding, program spending is set to jump from $165.5 billion this year to $173 billion next year.
There are no tax cuts in the document, though the province is introducing a “staycation” tax credit and enhancing or extending several existing tax credits, including the Ontario Seniors’ Home Safety tax credit.
The “staycation” tax credit will allow people who take trips anywhere in Ontario in 2022 to be able to claim up to 20 per cent of the cost of a trip, up to $1,000 for an individual or $2,000 for a family.
School boards are getting $78 million more to support COVID-19 measures and learning catch-up in schools, but the base funding for education is down from what was pledged in the 2021 budget by $360 million.
There is a $10 million commitment to help First Nations conduct surveys for unmarked graves around former residential schools and obtain death registration records.