- Stephen Lecce, MPP
Public Accounts Confirms Historic Investments to Support People and Jobs
TORONTO — Today, Ontario released the 2020-21 Public Accounts, which confirm that the government made record investments in healthcare and other vital frontline services to protect the health, safety and well-being of Ontarians in the fight against COVID-19. For the fourth year in a row, the Auditor General has provided a clean audit opinion on the Province’s financial statements, reinforcing the government’s commitment to restoring transparency and accountability in the province’s finances. “Since the outset of the pandemic, our government has made it clear that we will not spare any expense when it comes to the health and safety of the people of Ontario,” said Prabmeet Sarkaria, President of the Treasury Board. “The 2020-21 Public Accounts demonstrate that in a year of unprecedented challenges our government made every resource available to support critical frontline services in the fight against COVID-19. As we continue to battle the pandemic, we will leverage the full fiscal firepower of the province to support the people and businesses of Ontario.” The Public Accounts show that government program spending rose by $16.7 billion compared to 2019-20, representing the largest year-over-year dollar increase on record. Critical investments include increases of $5.8 billion in the health sector and $1.1 billion in the education sector over the 2019-20 fiscal year. Building on the investments made in the 2019-20 fiscal year, the 2020-21 Public Accounts outlines $19.1 billion of additional investments Ontario made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These investments created real and measurable results for the people of Ontario, including:
Over $3 billion in urgent and unprecedented support to over 110,000 small businesses.
Over $3 billion in provincial contributions to support 444 municipalities and 110 transit systems across the province help relieve financial pressures created by the pandemic and ensure that people who need to get around, including our frontline workers, have safe and reliable transit service.
Over $1.6 billion in temporary resources available for the 2020-21 school year to support the safe reopening and operation of over 4,800 schools.
$1.5 billion to support Ontario’s 627 long‐term care homes during the COVID‐19 pandemic, including funding for infection prevention and containment measures, staffing supports and personal protective equipment (PPE).
$879 million to support the province’s COVID-19 testing and contact tracing strategy.
$703 million to add over 3,100 hospital beds to create capacity and be ready to respond to any scenario.
As reported in the 2021 Ontario Budget, the government made $13.3 billion in time‐limited pandemic response and extraordinary contingencies available in 2020–21 through one-time COVID‐19 Health Sector Expense, the COVID-19 Health Contingency Fund and the Support for People and Jobs Fund. These strategic contingencies allowed the government to prudently respond in real-time to emerging and unforeseen needs. By the end of the 2020–21 fiscal year, the balance of both funds was zero. The Public Accounts reports a 2020-21 deficit of $16.4 billion — $22.1 billion lower than the 2020 Budget projection. This result reflects stronger revenue growth led by higher than anticipated corporate and personal income tax revenues due in part to the overwhelming COVID-19 supports provided by all levels of government. As well, expenses were $5.6 billion below the 2020 Budget forecast for 2020-21, driven by the uncertainty associated with the course of the pandemic. Broadly, this is because the third wave of COVID-19 in Ontario peaked later than anticipated and there was lower use and resulting expenses for some services and programs during the third wave of the pandemic, including physician visits, non-emergency procedures, social assistance, and college programs. This spending will now occur in 2021-22 and will be reflected in the 2021-22 public accounts. “The release of the 2020-21 Public Accounts builds on our government’s record of transparency and accountability in the Province’s finances throughout the pandemic and before,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance. “In Ontario as in other jurisdictions, historic support from all levels of government to support people and businesses during the pandemic has led to higher-than-forecast government revenues, reducing the deficit for 2020-21. We will continue to make available every resource to protect the province’s health, jobs and economy.”
The 2020-21 Public Accounts provides a retrospective look at the Province’s fiscal performance over the previous fiscal year, comparing the financial results against prior year performance and those projected in the March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update and the November 2020 Budget.
Ontario was the first jurisdiction in Canada to release a fiscal plan that reflected the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic through the March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update (Ontario’s Action Plan 2020: Responding to COVID-19). In November 2020, the government published its multi-year 2020 Ontario Budget (Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover), which included significant additional investments, and revised economic forecasts in the face of significant uncertainty about the pandemic.
Ontario will continue to provide regular updates on the Province’s fiscal and economic outlook based on the latest information available. The next step in the government’s plan will be outlined in the 2021 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review, to be released by November 15, 2021.