Our collective efforts to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 are paying off and allowing our Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, to maintain the yellow-protect coding level. This category allows for a broader range of activities, permitting businesses to operate under relaxed restrictions, and will enable us to enjoy more of the activities that we have grown to enjoy. Non-compliance with these restrictions could cause a new spike in local cases and force a return to a category of orange-restrict or higher. Dr. Roumeliotis and provincial experts are watching the latest statistics and trends to stay ahead of an outbreak. Our collaborative approach with Ontario Health, hospitals and public health continues to provide contract tracing and testing support, allowing us to test close to 5.5 million Ontarians, more than half of the country’s total testing. While there are promising reports on the vaccine front, the start of a public rollout is at best months away. We see record numbers across the country and around the world, highlighting the importance of the basic requirements to social distance, wear a mask, and wash your hands frequently. As colder weather pushes us to spend more time indoors where this virus thrives, these measures are critical in controlling it and allowing us to enjoy more of what life offers.
In the wake of last week’s 2020 Ontario Budget, the Government has started to roll out programs and investments this week that will tackle the next phase of our three-year, $45-billion COVID-19 recovery plan. At the core of the strategy is the need to ensure the health and well-being of Ontarians. We have been receiving calls on many of our new programs, including the additional family aid of $200 per child under the age of 12 and $250 for a special needs child up to 21. These funds are intended to offset COVID-related expenses. Seniors will also have access to a new 25% tax credit, which will help them renovate their home and live independently. The Home Safety Tax Credit will allow them to claim 25% of up to $10,000 in expenses. We have also included assistance on your electricity bills by allowing you to opt-out of time-of-use billing permanently. The new budget includes a total of $6 billion in support of residential electricity bills.
Unfortunately, this pandemic has forced all businesses to shoulder new and costly challenges. They have had to provide online and pick-up options, purchase PPE, and install extra safety measures for staff and customers. The new budget proposes to ease the tax burden. When the pandemic hit, we more than doubled the Employer Health Tax exemption to $1 million. This budget makes the exemption permanent. We will be making property taxes fairer by reducing the Business Education Tax by an average of 30 percent for many employers, saving 94% of Ontario’s businesses $450 million annually, beginning January 1, 2021. Time and time again, employers considering Ontario as a place to invest and create jobs end up going somewhere else due to the Province’s high commercial and industrial electricity prices. The primary reason is the high-cost contracts for electricity from wind, solar, and bioenergy entered into by the previous Government, for electricity Ontario doesn’t need, at a price employers can’t afford. Starting on January 1, 2021, a portion estimated at 85% of these high-cost contracts will be funded by the Province, not ratepayers, saving employers up to 16% on their electricity bills. Ontario will go from having some of the least competitive electricity prices to prices that are more competitive than the U.S. average. While this is a significant $1.3 billion investment over three years to address this problem, it is good news for job creation.
As always, I want to remind everyone to stay safe.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry