With 2020 quickly coming to a close, there has been a flurry of activity at Queen’s Park, highlighted by the recent announcement of the Ontario Budget. In normal years, the Budget is introduced in April. But, as we all know, nothing is normal in 2020.
As a result, Finance Minister Rod Phillips unveiled the details on Nov. 5, setting out a total of $45 billion in support over three years to make available the necessary health resources to continue protecting people, delivering critical programs and tax measures to support individuals, families and job creators impacted by the virus, and laying the groundwork for a robust long-term economic recovery for the province.
The recovery section of the budget will be particularly important as we head into 2021. It’s no secret businesses have suffered greatly this year and many face a very uncertain future. It was gratifying to see Minister Phillips acknowledge the challenges faced by Ontario’s hardworking entrepreneurs by including several measures in the budget to support their recovery.
Among the programs being introduced are reductions in commercial hydro rates, employer health taxes, the business education tax, and WSIB payments, along with additional investments in broadband internet services. The government understands that the road to recovery for many businesses will be a long and arduous one, but we want business owners to know that we’ve got their back every step of the way.
I want to thank Minister Phillips for taking the time on Nov. 17 to participate in a virtual meeting hosted by the Sarnia-Lambton Chamber of Commerce. Over 50 local participants joined us for the meeting, including representatives from various businesses, the County of Lambton, municipal partners, social agencies, healthcare, the media and more.
During our lively discussion, we touched on a broad range of topics, including provincial support programs for businesses, energy costs, labour inspections, rural broadband, mental health and opioid issues related to COVID-19, homelessness, and many more. Thanks to everyone who joined us for this important meeting – with a special shout-out to Chamber of Commerce CEO Allan Calvert for organizing the meeting.
In addition to business concerns, the budget brought welcome news to many other groups in Ontario. For example, in 2021, seniors will benefit from a Renovation Tax Credit that will help them upgrade their homes to meet their changing needs.
Additionally, the government has pledged to provide an average of four hours of care per resident in Ontario’s long-term care homes, which have been hard hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have also introduced numerous other programs to increase long-term care beds, train and hire additional staff, and provide the necessary personal protective equipment to increase the safety of our most vulnerable citizens and our valued long-term care workers.
Ontario is also providing up to $1 billion in combined federal-provincial funding to municipalities through the new COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream to build or renovate health and safety related projects in long-term care, education and municipalities. In total, Lambton County, the City of Sarnia and our ten other municipalities will receive more than $2.7 million in funding. With these investments, we’re making it possible for municipalities in Lambton County to get shovel-ready projects underway sooner, giving our local economy a much-needed shot in the arm.
As noted earlier in this column, the three goals of the 2020 budget are to protect the health of Ontarians, support individuals, families and workers as they navigate the second wave of COVID-19 and beyond, and build the foundation for a strong economic recovery fueled by growth.
To accomplish that, Ontario’s deficit this year has reached an unprecedented level, which has raised many concerns. However, as Finance Minister Phillips explained during the virtual meeting with the Sarnia-Lambton participants, “This is neither desirable nor sustainable – but it is necessary.”
As the government has stated many times, we will do whatever it takes to beat COVID-19 and to emerge stronger and better prepared for the future. Sarnia-Lambton stands at the forefront of this recovery. As I write this column, our combined efforts have allowed us to remain in the “Green” (Prevent) level of keeping Ontario safe and open.
By working together as a community, we are in a good position to kickstart our recovery. But, we cannot afford to become complacent and must continue to follow the recommended health protocols. As I’ve said many times before, we are all in this together. If we remain united, our future in Sarnia-Lambton remains bright.
For anyone needing assistance with provincial matters, my Constituency Office staff is always ready to help. Please call us at 519-337-0051 or email us at email@example.com – and we will do our best to respond as quickly as possible to your concerns.