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Ontario budget as expected; includes free beach days at provincial parks

While the public expected a large provincial budget focused on increased healthcare spending and supports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were investments to Prince Edward County businesses and some residents were surprised to see the announcement of free beach days at provincial parks.

Due to the pandemic, the budget does not predict a return to balanced budgets until 2029.

Bay of Quinte Todd Smith was pleased with new and ongoing support for local families and businesses delivered through the Province’s 2021 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy.

“With a doubling of support grants for businesses, additional funding to support families with childcare and remote learning, significant supports for children with special needs, a substantial investment in broadband infrastructure and targeted funding for our tourism and beverage industries, this is a good budget for Bay of Quinte,” said Smith.

The 2021 budget builds on the government’s record investments in response to the global pandemic, bringing total investments to $16.3 billion toward health and $23.3 billion toward economy. Ontario’s COVID-19 action plan support now totals $51 billion.

Smith notes it includes investments to support people and jobs in Bay of Quinte, including:
• Expanding and renewing hospital infrastructure, including redevelopment projects at Quinte Health Care’s Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital (creating a new full-service hospital on the existing site) and the Kingston Health Sciences Centre (creating 80 new inpatient beds and improving surgical capacity, waiting times, and mental health and addictions supports).
• Creating a one-time $10-million grant to help wineries and cideries impacted by lockdown measures, increasing funding for the Small Distillery Support Program by an additional $1.2 million, and extending existing support programs for wineries, breweries, cideries, and distilleries until 2022-2023.
• Expanding the Community Paramedicine for Long-Term Care program across Hastings and Prince Edward counties, including Belleville and Quinte West.
• Proposing to temporarily double the Regional Opportunities Investment Tax Credit rate from 10 per cent to 20 per cent, which would double the available tax credit support for regional investment from a maximum of $45,000 to a maximum of $90,000 a year.

“The hard work and sacrifice of people of Bay of Quinte is helping us reach the day when the pandemic is behind us,” said Smith. “Working together, we will unleash the economic growth that is necessary for job creation, prosperity and a stronger province.”

The province has decided to “provide more opportunities to enjoy Ontario parks” and is encouraging visits by offering free day-use entry Mondays to Thursdays May 1 to Sept. 2 this year “to help more people and families enjoy outdoor activities”.

Due to intense overcrowding at Sandbanks and other parks throughout the County last summer, the province stated it was working on a plan to alleviate the pressure. It is unknown when those announcements will be made, however, the budget states “Ontario will also invest an estimated $3.9 million over three years to enhance the provincial park experience by using technology to better connect the people of Ontario with a one‑stop shop to help them find recreational opportunities that fit their location and interests. The province and local businesses will collaborate to develop ideas to bolster Ontario’s tourism economy and create new ways to enjoy provincial parks.”

(For those who have already purchased permits,  Ontario Parks is extending the expiry date of the 2021 Annual Daily Vehicle Permit for one year to Dec. 31, 2022 and providing 2021 Summer Daily Vehicle Permit holders an additional season to use their permit. The summer daily vehicle permit will now be valid April 1 to Nov 30, 2021 and April 1 to Nov 30, 2022. Refunds are also available.)

Smith shares budget highlights related to COVID-19:
• More than $1 billion available for a province-wide vaccination plan. Ontario is also making it safer to re-engage with workplaces, businesses and communities with $2.3 billion for testing and contact tracing.
• $1.4 billion for personal protective equipment, including more than 315 million masks and more than 1.2 billion gloves.
• An additional $5.1 billion to support hospitals since the pandemic began, creating more than 3,100 additional hospital beds. This includes $1.8 billion in 2021–22 to continue providing care for COVID-19 patients, address surgical backlogs and keep pace with patient needs.

Highlights of Ontario’s plan related to long-term care:
• An additional $933 million over four years, for a total of $2.6 billion, to support building 30,000 new long-term care beds. Ontario is also investing $246 million over the next four years to improve living conditions in existing homes, including ensuring that homes have air conditioning for residents, so loved ones can live in comfort and with safety, dignity and respect.
• Investing an additional $650 million in 2021–22, bringing the total resources invested since the beginning of the pandemic to over $2 billion.
• $4.9 billion over four years to increase the average direct daily care to four hours a day in long-term care and hiring more than 27,000 new positions, including personal support workers (PSWs) and nurses.

Highlights to care for people:
• Support for historic hospital expansion and construction projects such as the County’s hospital.
• Additional funding of $175 million in 2021–22 as part of a historic investment of $3.8 billion over 10 years, to provide more and better care.

Highlights to support workers and families:
• New Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit for 2021 to provide up to $2,000 per recipient for 50 per cent of eligible expenses, for an estimated $260 million in support to about 230,000 people in 2021.
• A third round of payments to support parents through the Ontario COVID-19 Child Benefit, totaling $1.8 billion since last March. The payment will be doubled to $400 per child for this round and $500 for each child with special needs, which means a family with three young children, one of whom has special needs, will receive $2,600 in total after the third round of payments.
• Proposing a 20 per cent enhancement of the CARE tax credit for 2021. This would increase support from $1,250 to $1,500, on average, providing about $75 million in additional support for the child care expenses of over 300,000 families.

Highlights of Ontario’s plan to support jobs:
•A second round of Ontario Small Business Support Grant payments to eligible recipients. Approximately 120,000 small businesses will automatically benefit from an additional $1.7 billion in relief through this second round of support in the form of grants of a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 — bringing the estimated total support provided through this grant to $3.4 billion.
• To connect homes, businesses and communities to broadband — which COVID-19 has demonstrated is a necessity, not a luxury — Ontario is investing $2.8 billion, bringing the Province’s total investment to nearly $4 billion over six years beginning 2019–20.

Highlights to support communities:
• To support faith-based and cultural organizations struggling due to the additional costs caused by COVID-19, Ontario will be making up to $50 million available for grants to eligible organizations.
• To support Ontario’s 444 municipalities, the government is providing almost $1 billion in additional financial relief in 2021 to help preserve public services and support economic recovery.

Learn more about Ontario’s 2021 Budget at budget.ontario.ca.

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. CountyProud says:

    I cannot speak for other communities with Provincial Parks in their backyard. For PEC, this feels like a slap in the face. The County asked the Provincial Government for help with congestion around the parks, and this is the solution??? The County also appears to have no plans in place for dealing with the congestion on Cty Roads 11 12 and 18 – they decided instead to focus the tourism issue plans on Wellington (which certainly needed some focus but NOT at the expense of residents in the Provincial Park areas) This was rated a number one issue in the survey of community member.

    I’m not looking forward to another summer of waiting 10 mins to get out of my side road on to the main road, or cleaning up the litter from spontaneous picnics when people cannot get into the Park. This area of the County is already saturated with traffic and summer guests so piling on more day use park visitors and proposing to build more trailer parks does not make sense.

    I hope the County Council speaks up and lets the Provincial Government know this is not acceptable to the residents of PEC.

  2. Camper says:

    Last year was the best year for camping because most people were too scared to go. (Thanks COVID)

    This year will be the worst year for camping because they are just giving away day passes while real campers suffer.

  3. doug says:

    Maybe the politicians should wait 4 hours to get into the park with a full car load of kids then give their heads a shake.

  4. Chuck says:

    Agreed. This will cause more day tripppers and more traffic. Now everyday out there will be like a weekend. This decision was not made in the interest of the County. We are in for a crazy summer and with Covid variant cases topping 2400 a day now. Tough year ahead.

  5. Dee says:

    Plan will be announced for congestion on County Roads 10, 11 and 18. Cannot imagine that there will be any substantive improvements for local residents given that they are inviting free admission all week long.

  6. Dan says:

    I am moving to Flinton. This is ridiculous.

  7. JennyD says:

    I wonder, has anyone making these decisions even bothered to investigate the concerns repeatedly raised by over tourism? This adds insult to injury and sets everyone up for disappointment including locals, community businesses, municipal services and even the visitors who will line up without ever getting to the beach. So frustrating. Perhaps this was an attempt to gain support, but the collateral damage cannot be ignored. Yes, here we go again.

  8. Sue says:

    So campers who pay at least $42 a day will have to share amenities with those that get them for free. How about lowering camp fees as well? No, wait. That won’t happen. Ontario parks has no problem filling sites, so why charge less.

  9. SM says:

    Free entry for day trippers to Sandbanks and North Beach Monday to Thursday, but no plan in place to deal with congestion and overcrowding, traffic and the like. The tourists that were the issue last year were the day trippers. They contribute little to the local economy but are a burden on the County’s resources. So here we go again.

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