“Our government made unprecedented investments in the people of Ontario to provide families, health care workers, educators and businesses a plan that will keep Ontario open, safe and prepared,” said Prabmeet Sarkaria, President of the Treasury Board. “Despite the financial planning challenges jurisdictions faced as a result of the pandemic, we have made the prudent investments necessary to respond quickly and effectively to this ever-changing virus and continue to build Ontario’s future.”
Building on Ontario’s historic spending in 2020-21 to support people, businesses and the province’s health system during the pandemic, the government invested $170.5 billion in 2021-22, including $9.6 billion more in base funding alone for health care, education, infrastructure and other initiatives to build a stronger Ontario.
The Public Accounts outline Ontario’s fiscal picture at the end of 2021-22, demonstrating that revenues exceeded the 2021 budget forecast, mainly due to Ontario’s resilient economy and higher-than-projected inflation. This left Ontario with a $2.1 billion surplus, temporarily eliminating the province’s deficit. Ontario’s situation is not unique. Other provinces that have released updates to their 2021-22 deficit figures, including Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, are also seeing revenues in excess of their initial forecasts.
This surplus position is not indicative of the 2022-23 fiscal outlook, as the Public Accounts do not consider any forward-looking factors, such as the impact of changes in the economy or future spending decisions.
Amid global economic uncertainty and with the cost-of-living increases reaching levels not seen in decades, this surplus puts Ontario in a stronger fiscal position in the short-term. This enables the province to support people and businesses during a potential economic slowdown. By maintaining a plan that is fiscally flexible, the government will continue to invest in building the critical infrastructure that Ontarians rely on like highways, public transit, schools, hospitals and long-term care homes, particularly as the cost of labour and supplies continues to increase.
In addition to eliminating the cost of renewing licence plates, temporarily cutting the gas tax and removing road tolls on highways 412 and 418, the government is putting its short term stronger fiscal position to use by putting more money in people’s pockets.
To that end, and in response to preliminary testing data that is showing that approximately half of grade nine students are struggling with math after two years of pandemic disruptions, the government is enhancing its Plan to Catch Up by increasing funding for direct payments to parents by $140 million, bringing total investments to parents this year to over $365 million.
Parents can use their direct payments for additional tutoring supports or supplies and equipment that support learning. The province will provide details on when and how parents can expect to receive their direct payments in the coming weeks.
“Ontario’s Plan to Catch Up is designed to keep students in normal, stable, and enjoyable classrooms that get back to the basics of learning critical skills, with an emphasis on reading, writing, and math,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “We are again stepping up support for parents by providing an enhanced direct payment to support their children as they catch up amid a rising cost of living.”
The Public Accounts show that the government continued to invest in highways, transit, hospitals and other critical infrastructure. In 2021-22, the province spent $17.7 billion on infrastructure, including $6.1 billion on public transit and $2.6 billion on provincial highways, and invested $2.3 billion more in infrastructure than the previous year, with increased spending on public transit, schools, health care and community infrastructure.
Ontario invested $75.7 billion in the health sector in 2021-22, an increase of $6.2 billion from 2020-21 including a $5.2 billion increase in funding for base programs. This is the largest year-over-year dollar increase in health sector spending on record.
The 2021-22 increase in health sector spending is supporting key investments including:
- $1.8 billion for Ontario’s COVID-19 testing strategy and vaccine roll-out;
- $1.6 billion in additional hospital funding;
- $1.2 billion to support increased utilization of health care services, including more visits to physicians and practitioners, increased spending on drug programs to support Ontario’s aging population, as well as the addition of new therapies; and
- $900 million to stabilize the health and long-term care workforce, including supports for the temporary retention incentive for Ontario’s nurses, the accelerated training program and wage enhancement for personal support workers and direct support workers, and the Long-Term Care Staffing Plan to increase daily direct care for residents.
By November 15, the government will table Ontario’s fall economic statement, which will lay out the next steps in the government’s plan to support people and businesses in a time of economic uncertainty, while building on its record investments.
“The 2021-22 Public Accounts demonstrate that the government has continued to make record investments to support people and businesses, while upholding our commitment to bring regular and transparent fiscal updates to the people of Ontario,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance. “With our approach, we are ensuring the province is prepared in the face of ongoing economic uncertainty, while continuing to make significant investments in health, education and infrastructure.”
The government intends to introduce legislation to pause the automatic pay increase MPPs are supposed to receive when the province ends a fiscal year with a surplus. While people are struggling due to increasing costs, politicians should not be getting raises.