Peter Bethlenfalvy, Ontario’s Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board, issued the following statement in response to the release of the federal budget:
“Over the past year, we have valued the level of partnership between Ontario and the federal government in order to support the people of Ontario during this unprecedented time.
From the Safe Restart Agreement to commercial rent assistance, our government’s advocacy for Ontario has delivered real, meaningful support for people and employers across our great province. Our governments share a commitment to protecting people from this virus and beating the pandemic once and for all — and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Minister Freeland on the release of Budget 2021.
I am pleased to see that the federal budget shares the same priorities our government identified in our 2021 Budget last month — protecting people’s health and our economy.
However, as the COVID crisis intensifies, we are disappointed to see there was no action announced in today’s budget in several key areas — including stricter border measures to limit the introduction and spread of new, more contagious COVID variants that are causing the third wave, vaccine supply and improvements to the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.
In the face of weak border measures and limited vaccine supply, Ontario is doing what’s necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19. But the provinces can’t beat this third wave alone. We need the federal government to do its part. We need more vaccines and tighter border restrictions to prevent more variants of concern.
We also need to protect essential workers who need to keep working during this crisis. For months, Ontario has been advocating for improvements to the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. To protect their health and that of their co-workers when they’re ill or worried they may have COVID-19, workers need to know that they have immediate access to this program.
We were also disappointed to yet again see no movement on enhancing the Canada Health Transfer (CHT). While collaboration and new funding has helped to address key challenges over the course of the pandemic, COVID-19 has also underscored some long-standing challenges facing the health system that require urgent action on the part of the federal government.
Enhancing the CHT remains one of our government’s top priorities. Given the Prime Minister’s acknowledgement in December, it is unfortunate that the federal government would not take this opportunity to meet the urgent, unanimous request of all of Canada’s Premiers to significantly increase federal health care funding to cover at least 35 per cent of provincial-territorial health spending.
Currently the Canada Health Transfer covers less than 22 per cent of Ontario’s health care spending and this share is expected to decline over the next decade, while demand for services increases. Ontario needs a stronger federal partner to ensure we can improve wait times, reduce surgery backlogs and provide access to more beds and better treatments and come out of the pandemic with a stronger, more resilient health care system.
I, along with our entire government, remain steadfast in our promise to protect people’s health and our economy. We will continue to advocate on behalf of Ontario and strengthen our partnership with the federal government.”
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