Ontario unveils $17-billion coronavirus plan, foresees zero economic growth in 2020

26 Mars, 2020, 03:24 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips answers questions at Queen's Park in Toronto

COVID-19 is expected to carve out $5.8 billion dollars from the province's revenue stream in 2020-21, largely due to drops in personal income and corporate tax revenue, and due to the closure of casinos operated by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming corporation.

The Ontario budget update includes $7 billion in added resources for the province's beleaguered health-care system and support for people and jobs, and an additional $10 billion to help support businesses and individuals struggling with the effects of the COVID-19 shutdown.

Parents will see one-time payments of $200 for each student, $250 for each child with special needs students who are out of school to pay for unexpected school-related expenses.

The new spending includes $3.3-billion for the health-care system, with $2.1-billion for "outbreak response measures" for hospitals, long-term care and public health, as well as a $1-billion COVID contingency fund.

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips had been expected to release a full budget Wednesday, but made a decision to instead release an economic and fiscal update in light of the rapidly changing financial picture.

Investing $935 million for the hospital sector, including $594 million to accelerate progress on the government's commitment to address capacity issues, as well as $341 million for an additional 1,000 acute care and 500 critical care beds and additional assessment centres.

As part of the action plan, the Province also announced $3.7 billion to directly and urgently support people and to protect jobs.

Ontario will also spend $75 million on personal protective equipment. "The next round of that fight starts right here and right now with $17 billion in new emergency relief and support". The aid package also incudes a $355 million tax cut for around 57,000 employers through a proposed temporary increase to the Employer Health Tax exemption.

"Far too many workers, families and small businesses were already struggling to stay afloat before the COVID-19 pandemic", said Horwath in a news release. Eligibility will be expanded for the Low-income Energy Assistance Program, with an additional $9 million going to breaks on energy bills.

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Providing emergency child care options to support parents working on the front lines, such as health care workers, police officers, firefighters and correctional officers.

The budget predicts COVID-19 will bring Ontario's GDP growth to a standstill in 2020 - before rebounding later in the year and into 2021.

Meanwhile, the government said student loan repayments, under OSAP, would be suspended for six months during the COVID-19 crisis. "And small businesses can't use a tax credit if they have no cash coming in".

As well, businesses will get five months of interest and penalty relief to file and make payments for provincially administered taxes, at an estimated cost of $6 billion, employers will be allowed to defer Workplace Safety and Insurance Board payments, at a cost of $1.9 billion, and about $1.8 billion will be used to defer municipal remittance of education property tax to school boards, allowing municipalities to provide property tax deferrals to residents and businesses.

Ontario said the measures are a "timely and robust response package" that builds on the $82-billion that the federal government has announced so far, with the province pledging to take "further actions as required". Guaranteed Annual Income System payments for low-income seniors will be doubled for six months. The government will provide regular updates of the Province's fiscal and economic outlook throughout the year.

The Province is projecting a deficit of $9.2 billion in 2019-20, an improvement of $1.1 billion relative to the 2019 Budget.

Ontario's $2.5 billion reserve in 2020-21 is the highest ever in history.

The latest projections out of Ontario were part of a mini-budget of sorts, as Phillips and Ontario's Progressive Conservative government were forced to delay tabling a full budget until November amid all the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus. This responsible approach will allow the government to continue assessing the economic situation and put forward a long-term outlook based on the most recent and reliable data.

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