The province’s 2021 Fall Economic Statement says “yes” to building Ontario, with dedicated funding to improve roads and highways, hospitals and skilled trades training.

For 2021–22, the government is projecting a deficit of $21.5 billion, $11.6 billion lower than the outlook published in the 2021 Budget, said Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy, adding the improvement reflects a stronger economic growth outlook, as well as more recent information about the impact of COVID-19 on the province’s finances.

The economic review focused on three areas: protecting our progress, building Ontario and working for workers.

In terms of building, the plan lays out how the government intends to build the foundation for Ontario’s recovery by getting shovels in the ground.

The government has invested approximately $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 program, the government has committed funding to build and advance the Bradford Bypass and Highway 413.

“We are saying yes to highways that will get Ontario drivers out of gridlock, including a resounding yes to finally building Highway 413 and reducing commute times for over 300,000 drivers in York, Peel and Halton Region,” said Bethlenfalvy. “Even the construction of the 413 would create 3,500 jobs and contribute $350 million to our economy.

“It is time to get the 413 built.”

The province is also is investing $30.2 billion over the next 10 years to build, expand and enhance hospitals including the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital redevelopment project in Grimsby; the new Windsor-Essex Acute Care hospital; partnering with Trillium Health Partners to build a new inpatient care tower at the Queensway site in Etobicoke; redeveloping the Oak Valley Health – Uxbridge Hospital; and building the new inpatient care hospital at the William Osler Health System.

Close to $1 billion has also been promised to support the planning and construction of an all-season road network.

“The Ring of Fire is one of the most important mineral deposits in all of Canada,” Bethlenfalvy said. “Critical minerals are essential to the batteries, electric vehicles, clean energy and electronics manufacturing our economy badly needs.

“We hope the federal government is prepared to come to the table to support this vital project,” he added. “And I would certainly hope that other parties in this legislature stop holding back the Ring of Fire.”

Ontario is also doubling its annual investment in the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund program with an additional multi-year investment of $1 billion to provide 424 small, rural and northern communities certainty to build and repair roads, bridges, water and wastewater infrastructure.

Infrastructure projects can’t be built without workers, Bethlenfalvy added.

The government is investing an additional $5 million into the Second Career program and is expanding its scope to include newcomers, gig workers and people with disabilities. The province is also planning to extend the Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit to 2022 which would provide an estimated $275 million in support to about 240,000 people, or $1,150, on average.

Furthermore, the government will invest an additional $90 million over three years starting in 2021 in a Skilled Trades Strategy that includes creating a skilled trades career fair as well as enhancing the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program and the Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program.

“The skilled trades provide good jobs that can support families, but too few young people see the skilled trades as a career opportunity,” the minister said. “That will break the stigma and make it even easier to learn a trade in the province of Ontario, simplify the system and remove obstacles that prevent young people from entering the trade.”

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