The Ontario Government released its 2021 budget at Queen’s Park in Toronto this past week – Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy – to which both Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Bryan Paterson have weighed in.
The budget contained a variety of measures important to Kingston businesses, regional social service agencies and residents, as part of their recovery from the pandemic, and Mayor Paterson said he was encouraged to see the provincial government would be making investments in some of the priority areas made in the City’s pre-budget submission.
He identified those areas as:
- A second round of small business support grants – providing direct financial support to hard-hit local businesses.
- The creation of a new Ontario Tourism and Hospitality small business support grant to help local hotels, motels, and other attractions.
- An additional investment in broadband in both urban and rural areas with the Province promising to “blanket Ontario with high speed internet.”
- Extending the Safe Restart Agreement to support the delivery of essential municipal services and address the impacts of COVID-19 including investments in transit, affordable housing, and childcare.
- Discussions on how the Province intends to fund the new four-hour minimum standard of care in our long-term care settings.
“Ontario’s 2021 Budget offers supports for the hardest-hit sectors and communities, much needed aid for women, and key economic investments in tourism, training, and vital infrastructure such as broadband,” said Karen Cross, CEO of the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce. “The government’s plans to create a task force for inclusive growth and create targeted supports for women, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, are essential to our economic recovery and future prosperity.”
Cross also identified the Ontario Tourism Recovery Program, the Ontario Tourism and Hospitality Small Business Support Grant, tax credits to encourage safe travel within Ontario, and other financial reliefs for tourism and hospitality companies as being vital to cities like Kingston.
The Ontario budget’s $175 million toward the Roadmap to Wellness, a framework to address challenges related to mental health and addictions, still lacks important details the City needs to access this funding and get needed support to residents, according to Mayor Paterson. He says the City is looking forward to additional discussions with the Province regarding stable investments for the Integrated Care Hub and supportive housing.
“This budget had a lot of elements that will help support our path to recovery, post COVID. As we move forward in the weeks and months to come, I look forward to working alongside our government partners to ensure everyone has access to safe and supportive housing and mental health support,” said Paterson. “For Ontario to fully recover from the lasting impacts of this pandemic, we need solutions driven by collaboration between different levels of governments, the private sector and our community agencies and advocates. With the challenges facing us, working together has never been more critical.”
More information on the City’s 2021 pre-budget submission can be found on the mayor’s website.