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FORUM: How will Doug Ford’s 2020 budget impact us? (Nov. 2020)

December 4th, 2020 · No Comments

The government’s Scrooge-like plan is not what we need

By Jessica Bell

It’s easy to make bold and lofty promises at a press conference, but a budget reveals a government’s true priorities. 

The Ford government’s  2020-2021 budget on November 5 comes at a time when Ontario is facing huge social, health and economic challenges.  COVID-19 is spreading widely.  From Kensington to Little Italy, small businesses are closing for good. Parents, especially women, are leaving the workforce because they cannot hold their jobs while caring for and teaching their children. COVID-19 is resurging in our long-term care homes, including Vermont Square. The growing gap between the well-off and the poor, between white people and racialized people, is immoral and destabilizing.  It’s a consolation that Premier Ford didn’t cut funding in this year’s budget, but his plan is too cheap to match the challenges we face.

Here are the budget details:

  • Funding for long-term care is increasing by 2.6%. We are calling for the government to provide additional funding to increase personal support workers’ wages by $5 an hour and hire more workers so all residents in long-term care homes receive four hours a day of direct care. Homes have staff shortages because workers do not want to work in dangerous and hard conditions when they are paid little more than what they would earn in a retail store. 
  • Base health care spending is up by 1.5%, which is about the rate of inflation. We are calling for health care funding to be closer to 5.3% in order to match inflation, population growth, and the unique needs of communities.
  • The government is providing additional emergency funding to hospitals, but the Ontario Hospital Association is telling us it’s not enough to cover the additional costs hospitals are facing to treat the surge in COVID-19 patients. 
  • Education funding is essentially frozen. The budget will increase from $13B to $13.1B, but most of that increase is from the federal government. Large class sizes will remain, despite pleas from parents, teachers, and public health experts to reduce cohort size. We are calling for a class size cap of 15. 
  • Annual funding for repairing and building new schools has been cut from $1.4B to $1.3B. This bodes badly for University-Rosedale schools as many of our buildings are old, with windows, furnaces, washrooms, and HVAC systems in need of upgrades.  
  • All parents are eligible for another one-time cash payment of $200 per child under 12, and $250 for children and youth under 21 with special needs. 
  • There is no funding to build affordable housing or supportive housing.  There is no ban on residential evictions for people who cannot afford to pay the rent.  There is no rent subsidy to help people pay the rent. This inaction is going to make our city’s homelessness crisis worse. 
  • There is no increase in social assistance rates. 
  • There is a new one-time emergency fund of $25M for arts institutions to cover operating losses.  
  • The government plans to extend the temporary ban on evictions for commercial tenants but it’s not yet clear who will be eligible, whether it will be retroactive, or how long the ban will be extended. Ontario’s commercial eviction ban for the small percentage of businesses that were eligible for the federal rent subsidy program ended on October 31. 
  • Starting next year, the government will allow Toronto to create a new small business property subclass to provide targeted tax relief. The province will consider matching these property tax reductions.  

In the coming weeks, we will be advocating for additional support for health care, education, small businesses and people in need. We’re in a pandemic. It’s not the time to do things on the cheap.  It’s time for government to provide real care and leadership.  

Please contact our office if you have comments, questions, or need help.

Jessica Bell, is MPP for University-Rosedale.

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Tags: Annex · Columns · Opinion