The federal budget fails to offer action on pandemic-related border security, vaccine supply and enhanced paid sick benefits, says Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy.
While Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s budget shares priorities with Ontario’s budget released March 24, the federal fiscal blueprint was disappointing in these important areas, he said.
“In the face of weak border measures and limited vaccine supply, Ontario is doing what’s necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Bethlenfalvy said in a statement Monday. “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.”
The Doug Ford government has been under pressure from public health officials and others to bring in a paid sick days program for workers who get COVID-19 but can’t afford to take time off work.
Bethlenfalvy said the federal budget gave up an opportunity to improve the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit which was set up to help workers in this bind.
“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,” Bethelenfalvy said.
The province had also been hoping to see an enhancement to the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) which currently covers just under 22% of provincial health care costs, he said.
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said he welcomed the new money in the federal budget for child care.
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However, he argued that his government’s child-care tax credit provided parents with more choice than the federal plan that applied only to regulated spaces.
“Ontario needs long-term financial support that is flexible to respond to the unique needs of every parent, not a one-size-fits-all approach,” Lecce said.