Ontario government’s fall budget: What we know so far

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips will deliver the government’s fall budget Thursday afternoon in the legislature.

The budget was originally scheduled to be released in March but was delayed so the province could deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Thursday’s budget is expected to be much different than the previous budget because there are so many unknowns due to coronavirus.

The government will deliver three scenarios based on different fiscal and public health circumstances.

Ontario’s fiscal watchdog, the Financial Accountability Office, pegs the deficit right now at $38.5-billion. The government had previously planned to balance the budget by 2023-2024, although that plan will now be put aside to deal with coronavirus.

Sources with the government tell Global News the deficit will not significantly change in Thursday’s budget.

Read more: Ontario government to lay out next phase of coronavirus response in Thursday’s budget

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Money will be invested in support for seniors and long-term care homes which were hit the hardest at the beginning of the pandemic and continue to be a vulnerable population amid the second wave. Nearly 2,000 seniors have died from the virus in long-term care homes so far.

In October, the government announced an increase in pay for personal support workers (PSWs) in long-term care and community care who are eligible for a $3 an hour pay increase, while hospital PSWs are eligible for a $2 an hour pay hike. The temporary increase will cost the government $461 million and will expire in March 2021.

Also expected in the budget is support for families, tax relief for small businesses, money for skills training as well as contingency money set aside to deal with unforeseen financial burdens due to COVID-19.

Also expected is confirmation that the province plans to extend the ability of restaurants to deliver alcohol.

Not expected in the budget are pet projects, such as changes to licence plates, as this budget will focus on getting Ontario through the pandemic.

Phillips will deliver the budget at Queen’s Park around 4 p.m.

— With files from The Canadian Press.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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