PROTECTING THE PEOPLE OF ONTARIO ACT (BUDGET MEASURES)
On 31 March 2021, MPP Anand spoke about the 2021 Budget.
It’s always a pleasure to rise in the House on behalf of the wonderful community of Mississauga–Malton. This is a community that has banded together during the ongoing pandemic, with neighbours standing in solidarity with one another. I have personally witnessed many random acts of kindness: Malton Women Council arranging laptops for senior members so that they can reconnect with their loved ones; members of the Malton Black Development Association providing scholarships to local youth; organizations like Sai Dham and Seva food banks and Mount Zion church supporting the most vulnerable; Fueling Healthy Minds providing breakfast to students; community members like Angie Munick and Maranda Bacchus providing backpacks to bring smiles to those in need; and seniors’ groups supporting the mental and physical health of fellow seniors. Mr. Speaker, I can say with pride that I am part of such a vibrant and caring community, and I want to say thank you to the community for that.
Mr. Speaker, we’re talking about the budget. If passed, it will benefit the riding of Mississauga–Malton and communities across the province. I can assure hard-working Ontarians that the province and the elected officials that you have sent want to vanquish COVID-19 once and for all, and I’m proud to say that this budget will provide much-needed support. Every single line item in the 2021 Ontario budget is more than just words on paper. Each of these words represents hope and dreams for the communities across the province.
The budget before us delivers much-needed and well-targeted investment in the economic recovery of this province, while protecting the health of our residents so we can continue being the economic engine of this great nation.
Mr. Speaker, it is no surprise that my community’s small businesses, like in any of the communities across the province, have been adversely impacted by COVID-19. That’s why our government has stood up time and time again and supported these local businesses, and I can give you an example.
One year ago, in April 2020, we launched Tackling the Barriers portal, a virtual tool to allow small businesses to express to their government how we could be more flexible in enabling those small businesses to navigate through COVID-19. It has resulted in multiple, tangible changes that have kept our province going, with examples including capping fees to food delivery services, helping restaurants extend outdoor patio spaces, allowing 24/7 deliveries to retail stores and hotels to ensure shelves can stay stocked around the clock, permitting after-hours construction for critical infrastructure, allowing electronic witnessing of signatures for wills and powers of attorney, and partnering up with the federal government to provide commercial rent assistance. These are some of the examples.
According to the most recent red tape report card issued by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Ontario has been getting a grade A, the highest grade the province has ever received. It is worth noting that if we look at 2018, the previous government left us with just a C+, far behind the other provinces.
I want to recognize the extensive consultations done by Minister Bethlenfalvy and PA Cho. Thank you for your hard work to engage with the whole province. Thank you for actively listening and working hard to incorporate the suggestions from stakeholders from all regions.
Speaker, we know that businesses and families alike have been through a tough time. That is why the Ontario small business grant will automatically top up a second round of $10,000 to $20,000. I’m pleased to share with my colleagues that $1.44 billion has already been paid to over 100,000 businesses through the Ontario small business grant, 87% of all eligible businesses have already been paid, and 97% of all eligible applicants have been paid or are being processed.
We have seen the great success of programs like the Digital Main Street program. It allowed close to 20,000 small businesses in Ontario to expand their potential market. That is why this budget will aim to invest another $10 million.
Mr. Speaker, the minister has said time and again—and I want to borrow this from him—that without healthy people, we cannot have a healthy economy. We understand that not every community has been impacted in the same way. That is why this budget delivers $50 million towards a series of laser-focused, targeted measures that protect the communities most affected by COVID-19; like Peel, for instance.
Ontarians across the province are well aware of the decades of neglect and underfunding of long-term-care homes by the previous government. That is why our government is taking swift, decisive action to fix once and for all this issue for the sector. Trillium Health Partners at Speakman will build 420 new beds and upgrade 220 beds in Mississauga. I want to say thanks to the minister for giving us that support.
Peel region is also a diverse population with specialized cultural needs. That’s why the budget will invest $4.9 billion over four years to increase the average direct daily care to four hours a day in long-term care and provide the funds to hire a highly diverse batch of 27,000 new PSWs and nurses.
As the long-term-care capacity is increased and for wait-lists to decrease, we must maintain high-quality standards for seniors living in the comfort of their homes. That is why the budget is going to provide $160 million over the next three years.
Mr. Speaker, in 2019, just prior to the pandemic, despite being only 40% of Canada’s population, our beautiful province was responsible for 76% of Ontario’s job growth. As the Premier always says, the government does not create jobs; it creates the optimal conditions for businesses to create jobs. That is what this budget is providing. Our policies have already had great success in placing our province on the pedestal of the top destinations for growth.
For the long-term economic recovery, our government seeks to provide $400 million over four years to support investments in sectors such as advanced manufacturing, technology and life sciences. This funding will allow the agency to promote all the wonderful pull factors associated with our province, including a great quality of life, a strong and growing innovation sector and a highly skilled talent pool.
Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about broadband. In today’s world, the power of the Internet and digital highway: If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that the ability for homes, businesses and communities to connect to broadband is a necessity; it is not a luxury. That’s what we’ve learned. That is why our government is going to invest $2.8 billion so that we can have broadband in every corner of our province by 2025.
Our government is well aware of and embraces the rich economic and geographic diversity of our province. That is why we are going to be making sure to invest $61 million into the Regional Opportunities Investment Tax Credit. This means a total tax credit support of $155 million. At this critical time, when many businesses are looking to transition their operations, a doubling of the tax credit rate as proposed by this budget would create a much more attractive climate for businesses to open up shop across Ontario. This will help to make sure that the whole province progresses together.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, the budget before us delivers a muscular investment into ensuring both the short-term and long-term economic and physical health of our province at a time when communities and companies are deciding how to best transition and reorient their life and operations. This budget makes a deliberate emphasis to position Ontario as the foremost destination to live, grow and make investments, while protecting people’s health and our economy.
We have all worked together—all levels of government have worked together with the stakeholders, the businesses, the local partners, the residents at large—to combat COVID-19. I want to say this: Let’s keep the discipline and continue to follow the local public health guidelines. We have shown how we can come together and weather the storm, and with vaccinations under way, the horizon is near. Just this week, our government reached the incredible milestone of over two million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
At this time, I’m looking forward to colleagues on both sides joining us in supporting this bill.