Toronto, ON—Ontario has released its 2021 Budget: “Protecting People’s Health and our Economy,” as a plan for restarting the economy after a rough year due to the pandemic. The province’s real gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have declined by 5.7 per cent in 2020.
“You can’t have a healthy economy without healthy people,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, Ontario’s minister of finance. “For the past year, we have been focused on protecting people from COVID-19. Many challenges lie ahead. But with vaccines being distributed in every corner of the province, hope is on the horizon. We are ready to finish the job we started one year ago.”
For the skilled trades industries, Ontario will be investing a total of $288.2 million in 2021-2022 in its “Skilled Trades Strategy,” which will include $39.6 million over three years to expand the Special High Skills Major program. An additional $3 million over three in a new pilot bursary program for hands-on learning in the skilled trades.
The budget is also a statement of intent by Ontario’s premier, Doug Ford, as the government moves into an election year in 2022. “The Ontario Government is presenting this budget amidst different circumstances to the 202 Budget, as they are now looking ahead to a period where COVID-19 will likely not be the defining feature of policymaking,” reports Impact Canada in a letter to the Canadian Institute of Plumbing & Heating (CIPH) and the Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada (MCAC).
In addition, the province will be expanding the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) to include a Grade 10 summer course. A proposed new temporary Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit for 2021 has also been included in the budget. This personal income tax credit would be refundable and provide support to eligible individuals whether or not they owe income tax for 2021. It would be calculated as 50 per cent of eligible expenses for 2021 and with a maximum credit of $2,000.
Eligible applicants must be a resident in Ontario on Dec. 31, 2021, and have a Canada training credit limit for 2021 greater than zero. Expenses covered would be the same as those that can be claimed for the Canada training credit—this includes tuition and other fees paid to an eligible educational institution in Canada for courses taken in 2021, or fees paid for occupational, trade or professional examinations taken. The cost of this measure is projected to be $260 million over two years.
The budget shone some light on small businesses. Around 120,000 small businesses will automatically benefit from an additional $1.7 billion in relief through the second round of support from grants of a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000—bringing the estimated total support through this grant to $3.4 billion.
In terms of infrastructure, the province is planning on investing over the next 10 years, a total of $145.4 billion, including $16.9 billion in 2021-2022. This will include $550 million to build 20 new schools and eight additions to existing schools, $200 million for funding larger, strategic projects and sports facilities through the Strategic Priorities and Infrastructure Fund, and $200 million towards to Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF). An additional $50 million over the next two years will be given to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, and $6 million annually will be given to funding upgrades to infrastructure through the Indigenous Community Capital Grants Program.
As part of the Building for Recovery program, the Ontario budget also highlights that the province has nominated over 760 projects to the federal government through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) to date.
Ontario is currently projecting a $38.5 billion deficit in 2020–2021. The government projects a decline in the provincial deficit of $33.1 billion in 2021-2022, $27.7 billion in 2022-2023, and $20.2 billion in 2023-2024.