Provincial economic outlook commits billions for roads, hospitals, LTC and housing construction

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The theme of the 2021 Ontario economic outlook and fiscal review released Nov. 4 is Build Ontario and the government’s plan confirms that building the foundation for Ontario’s recovery and prosperity depends on “getting shovels in the ground on critical infrastructure.”

“As we continue to protect the hard-won progress against the pandemic, our government is looking forward with our plan to build a better and brighter future for families, workers and businesses in Ontario,” Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said at a news conference.

“By unlocking critical minerals in the North, harnessing our manufacturing capacity and building critical infrastructure, our plan will drive our economic recovery and prosperity for every region of our province.”

The government’s Build Ontario plan targets getting shovels in the ground for highways, hospitals, housing and high-speed internet and expanding health care capacity, provide access to critical mineral resources in Ontario’s North, and reducing the time drivers spend in gridlock.

Highlights include:

  • $2.6 billion in funding for 2021–22 in support of the Ontario Highways Program, which features more than 580 construction, expansion and rehabilitation projects. As part of the Highways Program, the government has committed funding to build and advance the Bradford Bypass and Highway 413.
  • $1 billion to support the planning and construction of an all-season road network, as well as other projects that will provide a corridor to prosperity for the remote First Nations in the Far North. The Government of Canada must step up and match Ontario’s commitments in this critical project.
  • $1 billion increase to the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund program. This additional multi-year investment of $1 billion will bring the total investment to nearly $2 billion over the next five years beginning in 2021–22, to provide certainty and predictability to 424 small, rural and Northern communities so that they can build and repair roads, bridges, and water and wastewater infrastructure.
  • $4 billion to connect all regions to affordable, reliable high-speed internet by the end of 2025.
  • $3.7 billion additional funding beginning in 2024–25, to build an additional 10,000 net new long‑term care beds and upgrade 12,000 existing beds to modern design standards.
  • $30.2 billion over the next 10 years to build, expand and enhance hospitals, a historic commitment to ensure people can get the care they need in their communities.

Working for Workers is a plan to build up Ontario’s workers by proposing to raise the minimum wage, providing funding so workers can learn new skills, and attracting investment in critical minerals, automotive manufacturing and other industries to create good-paying jobs.

Highlights include:

  • $90.3 million over three years starting in 2021–22 added to the Skilled Trades Strategy. Key new initiatives include creating a skilled trades career fair as well as enhancing the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program and the Pre‑Apprenticeship Training Program.
  • Increasing the general minimum wage to $15 per hour effective January 1, 2022, and to eliminate the special minimum wage rate for liquor servers by raising it to the general minimum wage.
  • Developing the province’s first-ever Critical Minerals Strategy to help secure investments such as new electric vehicle technology.
  • Creating a new provincewide two-year $40 million Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Competitiveness stream.
  • Extending the Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit to 2022. The 2022 credit extension would provide an estimated $275 million in support to about 240,000 people, or $1,150, on average.
  • $5 million in 2021–22 to expand the Second Career program.
  • $1.1 million in 2021–22 to support a dedicated team of officers to undertake focused inspections of temporary help agencies and recruiters of migrant workers. The pilot will help protect some of the most vulnerable and marginalized workers.

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