Ontario’s record $187-billion budget promises a record deficit of $38.5 billion this year, but Stan Cho, Parliamentary Assistant to the Finance Minister, is confident it will benefit Ontarians in the long run.
“We’re confident that with the recovery and support measures we’ve introduced, they will serve as a catalyst for when we have COVID-19 in the rearview mirror so we’re prepared for those days and we want to be ahead of the rest of the world when that happens,” Cho said in an interview with Vista Radio.
Prior to the budget being formally released, it was revealed that there is no provincial tax hike for Ontarians, but the government will allow for municipalities to raise property taxes if they need to. Cho believes this will benefit business-owners.
“What we’ve done with this budget is reduce the provincial portion of the property tax so the provincial portion will remain the same so it’s not a hit to [municipalities’] revenue,” Cho explained. “This will lead to a 30 percent savings for those small businesses out there that are just trying to make ends meet.”
Cho adds the lowering of the provincial portion of property taxes will extend beyond the three-year budget.
“We know that the fallout from COVID-19 could be longer than we like so we’re preparing for that stage of recovery by reducing the burden on businesses,” he said.
Also included in the budget is the continuation of the Support for Learners program which was rolled out near the beginning of the pandemic. Under the new budget, families will receive $200 dollars for each child 12 and under, with $250 available for children with special needs aged 0 to 21.
More money will also be spent on seniors, with rebates available for homeowners who renovate their houses to accommodate a senior resident.
“Some of them (seniors) want to stay at home and have been spending more time at home because of the pandemic,” Cho explained. “If you put $10,000 into safety, whether that be for widening the doors, installing a security system or a ramp for better accessibility if you spend that $10,000 you get that $2,500 back.”
The province also announced that it will allow credit unions to sell auto insurance, which Cho says will tackle what he calls a broken system.
“It’s a system full of conflict, you have no-fault and the right to sue which creates all these problems, so we have to fix this by going after the root underlying problem. We have to increase competition, we have to allow for innovation in that sector, we have to remove the conflict, and we have to get the bad actors out of there. We have to make sure fraud is dealt with,” he said.
As for mitigating the long-term economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cho says that his government’s budget has sufficiently prepared for the province to prosper when the pandemic is over.
“When COVID-19 is behind us and we start making that record job creation and we start to see the revenue increase for the province we will reduce the deficit while at the same time balancing the prosperity of the province. I’m confident that we will leave this world in better shape for the next generation,” he concluded.