Ontario’s Fall Economic Statement

Health Spending, Road Construction and cutting of temporary COVID-19 Funds

Queen’s Park is upping health spending while cutting back on COVID-19 support programs, as outlined in the province’s fall economic statement.

In the statement released Thursday, officials project there will be a $21.5-billion deficit for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, which is less than the $33.1-billion projected by March’s budget. “This improvement reflects a stronger economic growth outlook, as well as more recent information about the impact of COVID-19 on the province’s finances,” reads a statement.

Time-limited funding issued during the COVID-19 pandemic is being phased out over the next few years. While $19.1-billion was given out during 2020-2021, that number went down to $10.7-billion for 2021-2022 and will fall further to $3.4-billion for 2022-2023. That fund will be fully phased out by 2023-2024.

Durham Region has previously expressed concerns about the pullback of COVID-19 funds, noting it could affect the homelessness support programs that were set up during the pandemic, including the hubs in Ajax and Oshawa.

Highlights of the economic statement include:

$548.5-million over three years to expand home and community care.

$30.2-billion over 10 years to build and upgrade hospitals.

$3.7-billion to build an extra 10,000 long-term care beds and upgrade 12,000 existing beds.

$342-million to train new nurses and personal support workers (PSWs) and upskill those currently employed. In total, 5,000 nurses and 8,000 PSWs will be hired or trained, staring in 2021-2022.

$57.6-million to hire 225 nurse practitioners into the long-term care sector, starting in 2022-2023.

$72.3-million over three years to double the number of inspectors patrolling the long-term care sector. $2.6-billion for construction and repairs of highways and bridges. This includes an unspecified amount of funding for controversial projects like the Bradford Bypass and Highway 413. Almost $1-billion for an all-season road network in northern Ontario, aiming to supplement the mineral mining industry.

Almost $4-billion to get high-speed internet across the province by the end of 2025. $90.3-million over three years to connect skilled trades workers to jobs and training. $5-million to expand the Second Career program. A temporary tax credit for 2022 (expected to be worth about $270-million), for tourists staying within the province. $1.1-million for a team of officers to inspect temporary help agencies and migrant work recruiters. $10-million to further support “investigations and commemoration” of burial sites near the sites of former residential schools

Durham News November 04, 2021

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