Here's what you need to know about Ontario's 2021 budget

The Ontario government has delivered its second budget of the COVID-19 pandemic, which lays out a plan to stimulate economic growth and jump start what is expected to be a years-long journey to financial recovery.

Plan features another round of one-time payments for small businesses, families with children

The 2021 budget tabled by Premier Doug Ford's government includes $1 billion for Ontario's COVID-19 vaccination plan. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

The Ontario government has delivered its second budget of the COVID-19 pandemic, which lays out a plan to stimulate economic growth and jump start what is expected to be a years-long journey to financial recovery.

Here's what the $186 billion plan says, along with some details about its most significant new investments and initiatives:

Massive spending, deficit projections

  • Ontario's projected deficit is now $33.1 billion, which would represent a slight decrease from the record $38.5 billion deficit logged in 2020.
  • The  budget forecasts a surplus by 2029-30. However, the forecasts also include estimates if economic growth is slower or faster than expected.
  • If economic growth outpaces current projections, Ontario says it could reach a surplus as soon as 2027-28. If growth is slower than expected, the province says the budget may not be balanced until 2031-32.

Billions for 'defeating' COVID-19

  • Ontario is budgeting $1 billion for its ongoing vaccination campaign, which the budget document describes as "the government's most urgent priority."
  • The province is also committing $2.3 billion to fund COVID-19 testing and contact tracing in 2021 and 2022.
  • The budget commits $1.8 billion to provide care for COVID-19 patients and tackle surgical backlogs lengthened during the pandemic.

Another round of small business support

  • The Small Business Support Grant returns with a second round of payments for businesses that lost revenue during the pandemic.
  • The approximately 120,000 small businesses eligible during the program's first round will receive a second payment of between $10,000 and $20,000. Business owners do not need to re-apply for the grant.
  • Ontario will also create a similar $100 million program for hard-hit tourism and hospitality businesses, which will be eligible for one-time payments between $10,000 and $20,000.

Money for families

  • The Ontario COVID-19 Child Benefit has been doubled and will return for a third round, this time providing a one-time payment of $400 per child and $500 per child with special needs.
  • Ontario will also expand its child care tax credit, called CARE, by 20 per cent this year only. The top up increases support from $1,250 to $1,500 on average.

Long-term care spending

  • The budget commits $2.3 billion over the next four years to the province's long-term care sector, an increase from the $1.75 billion previously announced.
  • The money will result in "a development pipeline" of 20,161 new beds by 2025 and 30,000 beds by 2028, the government says.
  • Ontario says the new spaces will be offered at both for-profit and public long-term care facilities.

Other highlights include:

  • $8.4 million over three years to fund a crisis call diversion program within the Ontario Provincial Police, which may result in some calls being diverted to mental health services rather than police.
  • The construction of a new inpatient wing at the William Osler Health System's Peel Memorial hospital in Brampton, though no timeline was provided.
  • An additional $175 million for mental health and addictions support programs.
  • A new job training tax credit, which will provide up to $2,000 for an estimated 230,000 people in 2021. Only residents between 26 and 65 will be eligible.
  • Ontario will also spend an additional $2.8 billion to bring broadband access to more people across the province by 2025.

With files from The Canadian Press


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