Dear Minister Phillips,
This afternoon, the federal government will release their economic snapshot which demonstrate how the much they’ve supported Canadians through the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Ontario is not going to have a fiscal update until we are in the dead of summer, when the government hopes no one is watching. I continue to urge you to release a fiscal update by July 15th as the federal government has done.
The federal government has stepped up during these remarkable times, but the province of Ontario has not. The FAO has revealed that $3.5 billion of your $17 billion action plan is not new spending – and a further $10 billion of the plan is in the form of tax deferrals, not direct support.
Now that the first wave of the pandemic is subsiding, it is time for your government to invest in Ontario’s economic recovery. The economic impacts of COVID-19 stretch to nearly every sector of business and society.
Women are disproportionately experiencing the economic impacts of COVID-19. Unemployment is on the decline for men faster than it is for women, and women occupy public-facing service sector and accommodation industry jobs that are higher-risk and slower to return. Additionally, with the school year still uncertain the burden of childcare in the absence of classroom education and reliable childcare will impact women’s income, lifetime earning potential, and status in Ontario’s economy. What are the new supports to help women, students, and those most impacted by the pandemic get back to work?
Education and Childcare
With the school year resuming in less than two months, it is still unclear if, when, and how children across Ontario will return to classrooms. Both schools and childcare centres will face limited capacity and increased costs for enhanced cleaning and safety measures, and the burden to fill in the gaps will fall onto parents. What amount of new dollars are being invested in schools and childcare centres to assure our children are safe from COVID-19?
Support for Municipalities
Municipalities across the province have seen a significant revenue decline. Unlike the federal and provincial governments, municipalities cannot run operating deficits, which leaves them with bleak options: draconian spending cuts, massive property tax increases on a financially strained resident base, or both. The City of Toronto is projecting the possibility of a $1.5 Billion shortfall as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
- Create a $4 billion Ontario Emergency Municipal Support Fund, in partnership with the federal government, to provide urgent relief to municipalities facing cuts to public services. The province should make a down payment on these funds today.
- Double the provincial investment made to eligible municipalities from the 2019 provincial gas tax program.
- Fast-track provincial funding for infrastructure projects that are shovel ready, to help put our people back to work, and build the critical infrastructure we need.
Long Term Care
The Ford government consistently rejected the call for an independent public inquiry into Ontario’s Long Term Care system that was devastated by COVID-19. To prepare for and prevent a second wave of outbreaks, what amount of new dollars is the province investing to fortify the system?
I have raised the issue of support for small businesses with you many times in the legislature, and it bears repeating here. The bulk of support for small business in Ontario’s COVID-19 action plan is in the form of tax deferrals to help with cash flow over the next weeks and months. However, these deferrals do not help businesses that are not able to generate revenue or bounce back quickly. They need a multi-year repayment plan, with an option for tax forgiveness.
Ontarians have come a long way in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and will continue to be resilient in the recovery. They have gotten through the worst of the pandemic with remarkable support from the federal government, and now they need their provincial government to do more.
Thank you for your consideration of this letter. I am available to discuss these recommendations with you further at your convenience.