Today, Finance Minister Rod Phillips released the March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update providing a one-year outlook and offering an update on the province’s spending on the COVID-19 response.
The update was delivered in an emergency sitting of the Legislature with only 28 Members of Provincial Parliament present and it was the only item of business for the day.
The update does not offer any multi-year projections, as the current pandemic situation has limited the government’s ability to predict longer-term spending and revenue. The government has committed to introduce a full multi-year budget on November 15, 2020.
While the update is heavily focused on Ontario’s commitments for health care and the pandemic response, it also assumes the federal government will do their part in helping the province respond, particularly by providing support for people who are out of work.
The update confirms that the deficit for 2019-20 sits at $9.2 billion, the same as projected in the November 2019 Fiscal Update. Due to COVID-19, the government is projecting a deficit of $20.5 billion in 2020-21, including a $2.5 billion contingency. The deficit projections are based on relatively optimistic projections regarding economic activity. The plan projects that, despite the burgeoning COVID-19 crisis, revenues will decline by only $0.5 billion year-over-year, with real GDP remaining unchanged between 2019 and 2020.
$3.3 billion for additional health care resources
Overall, Ontario anticipates spending $67.8 billion on health care in 2020-21, up from $64.4 billion in 2019-20. This $3.3 billion spending increase includes a $1 billion COVID-19 contingency fund that will be invested to address emerging pandemic response needs. Other areas of investment include:
Hospitals ($935 million total)
- $594 million to address capacity issues
- $341 million for 1,000 acute care beds, 500 critical care beds and more assessment centres
The fiscal update also allocates $2.06 billion for hospital infrastructure, a $500 million decrease from the previous year.
Transitional, home and community care
- $124 million to support over 90 transitional care projects and moving 20,000 patients from hospital
- $120 million to increase home and community care capacity
- $243 million for surge capacity
- $80 million to “improve and maintain the quality of care and overall resident experience in long‐term care homes, as well as continued funding to increase long‐term care capacity and access for residents”
- $23 million for a minor capital program
- $160 million in increased funding for public health to support COVID‐19 monitoring, surveillance and laboratory and home testing
- $61 million for vaccines
- $20 million in research and innovation funding focused on COVID-19, including to research institutions, industry and non-profit scientific partners
Other health care investments
- $75 million to supply personal protective equipment and critical medical supplies
- $62 million for more front-line health care providers
- $23.8 million to enable more physicians to conduct video, email or phone visits for patients
- $35 million for blood products and a new Canadian Blood Services site in Sudbury
- $70 million for infection control and personal protective equipment in residential facilities providing social supports
- $75 million to 194,000 vulnerable seniors through a six-month period of doubling of the Guaranteed Annual Income System
- $5 million to support the coordination of subsidized delivery of meals, medicines and essentials in partnership with businesses, charities and health services
- $148 million to the Consolidated Municipal Service Managers and District Social Service Administration Boards to support funding for charitable and non-profit social services organizations like food banks, homeless shelters and emergency services
Education and training
- $100 million to Employment Ontario for skills training programs for workers affected by the COVID‐19 outbreak
- $6 billion in tax deferrals, including deferring penalties and interest for businesses that miss any filing or remittance deadlines for provincial taxes, up to August 31, 2020
- Postponing the planned property tax reassessment for 2021
- $355 million to increase the Employer Health Tax exemption, meaning more than 90% of private-sector employers would not pay the Employer Health Tax in 2020