Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs

First Interim Report: Economic and Fiscal Update Act, 2020

1st Session, 42nd Parliament
69 Elizabeth II


ISBN 978-1-4868-4609-2 (Print)
ISBN 978-1-4868-4606-1 [English] (PDF)
ISBN 978-1-4868-4608-5 [French] (PDF)
ISBN 978-1-4868-4605-4 [English] (HTML)
ISBN 978-1-4868-4607-8 [French] (HTML)





The Honourable Ted Arnott, MPP
Speaker of the Legislative Assembly


Your Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs has the honour to present its Report and commends it to the House.


Amarjot Sandhu, MPP
Chair of the Committee

Queen's Park
July 2020











Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs

Membership list

1st Session, 42nd Parliament

amarjot sandhu


jeremy roberts


IAN ARTHUR                                                        david piccini

STAN CHO                                                      mike schreiner


STEPHEN CRAWFORD                                         Sandy shaw

Mitzie hunter                                                 donna skelly

sol mamakwa                                                      dave smith

                                                                                                Peterborough —Kawartha



NON-voting members:

stephen blais                                          *laura mae lindo

catherine fife                                          kaleed rasheed

randy hillier                                                 john vanthof

andrea khanjin

*JILL ANDREW was replaced by LAURA MAE LINDO on June 3, 2020.


julia douglas

Clerk of the Committee

dmitry granovsky and andrew mcnaught

Research Officers








The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs is pleased to present its first interim report on the Economic and Fiscal Update Act, 2020, and the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the Ontario economy.

This document addresses the first part of the Committee’s mandate, which is to consider the Economic and Fiscal Update Act, 2020, together with letters filed by party leaders and independent Members containing recommendations relating to the Act.

In accordance with the Committee’s terms of reference, the Minister of Finance appeared as the Committee’s first witness on June 1, 2020.  Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer also made a presentation and answered questions.

The interim report summarizes the testimony of these witnesses, and sets out the Committee’s comments and recommendations.

Further interim reports will follow over the course of the summer as the Committee moves on to study the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on specific sectors of the economy.  A final report will be tabled in the fall of 2020.

Committee Mandate

Motions adopted unanimously by the House on March 25 and May 12, 2020 established a two-part mandate for the Committee.

When the House passed Bill 188, the Economic and Fiscal Update Act, 2020, on March 25, 2020, it also adopted a motion providing that party leaders and independent Members may file letters with the Speaker, setting out their recommendations for economic and fiscal measures that should be included in the Bill.  The motion further provided that when committees of the Legislature resume, the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs would be authorized to consider the Act, together with the letters filed by the leaders and independent Members, and that the Minister of Finance would be the Committee’s first witness when it commenced its review.

The motion passed on May 12, 2020, authorized the Committee to begin consideration of the matters that had been referred to it on March 25.  In addition, it empowered the Committee to study the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on specific sectors of the provincial economy, including “measures which will contribute to their recovery.”  The sectors identified in the motion are:

· tourism;

· culture and heritage;

· municipalities, construction and building;

· infrastructure;

· small and medium enterprises; and

· other economic sectors selected by the Committee.

The Committee is specifically authorized to release interim reports, as it sees fit.  Interim reports are to be presented to the House, and a copy of each report is to be provided to the Chair of Cabinet’s Ontario Jobs and Economic Recovery Committee.  Interim reports will not be placed on the Orders and Notices paper for further consideration by the House, and the Government will not be required to table a comprehensive response to them.

A final report will be tabled, and a copy delivered to the Chair of the above-noted Cabinet committee, by October 8, 2020.

Appendix A to this report reproduces the Committee’s mandate in full.


Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19 (March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update)

As a result of the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic outlook used to develop the 2020 Ontario Budget was revised.  In response to the revised outlook, and the health and economic consequences of the crisis, on March 25, 2020 the Ontario government released Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID‑19 (March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update).

The Ministry of Finance has posted two documents on its website: the March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update and Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19.  The main provisions of these documents are outlined below.

Economic and Fiscal Update

The Economic and Fiscal Update provides a one-year outlook based on economic projections as of March 2020, and focuses on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the Ontario economy, and the fiscal remedies proposed by the government.  The Update was released instead of a full budget.  A full, multi-year budget will be introduced in the Legislature by November 15, 2020.

Key numbers in the Update are as follows.

Fundamentals, Revenues and Expenses

The Ontario Ministry of Finance reports that real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased by 1.6% in 2019.  The Ministry is forecasting real GDP to remain unchanged in 2020, and to increase by 2% in 2021.  The forecast assumes an improvement in economic growth starting in the second half of 2020.  The province added over 200,000 jobs in 2019, with the unemployment rate steady around 5.6%.  Employment growth is expected to slow in 2020, with the unemployment rate projected to increase to 6.6% and remain at that level through 2021.

The total revenue for 2019-20 is expected to be $156.7 billion, with the primary sources of income (in order of magnitude) being Personal Income Tax, Sales Tax, and Federal Transfers.  Revenue is forecast to decrease to $156.3 billion in 2020-21, mostly as a result of lower corporate and income taxes collected, as well as less income from Government Business Enterprises (GBEs).  The drop in revenue is expected to be somewhat offset by an increase in Federal transfer payments. Overall, projected revenues for 2020-21 are $3.5 billion lower than the 2019 Budget projection, with the negative impact of COVID-19 estimated at $5.8 billion (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Revenue Adjustment, 2020-21

The chart shows the changes in revenue since the 2019 budget. In 2019-20, revenues exceeded projections by 2.6 billion dollars. In 2020-21, the economic impact of COVID-19, alongside new tax relief, is projected to result in 3.5 billion dollars less in revenue than expected in the 2019 budget.

Source: Ministry of Finance, March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update, p. 25

Expenses are estimated to total $165.7 billion in 2019-20, and increase to $174.3 billion in 2020-21 (see Figure 2 for breakdown).  The growth in expenses is attributed mainly to the health sector, where additional funding ($0.9 billion in 2019-20 and $3.3 billion in 2020-21) is expected in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.  Other sectors receiving additional funding as a result of the pandemic include the Children’s and Social Services sector, the Justice sector, Education and Post-secondary Education, as well as Other Programs (See Figure 2).


Figure 2: Projected Expenses, 2020-21 ($Billion)

The chart breaks down the total projected expenditure by the Ontario Government in the 2020-21 fiscal year. Total expenses are 174.3 billion dollars. Health sector, 67.8 billion, 39 percent of total. Education sector, 31.9 billion, 18 percent of total. Post-secondary education and training sector, 10.7 billion, 6 percent of total. Children's and social services sector, 17.7 billion, 10 percent of total. Justice sector, 4.5 billion, 3 percent of total. Other programs, 28.4 billion, 16 percent of total. Interest on debt, 13.2 billion, 8 percent of total.

Source: Data from March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update, chart by Legislative Research and Legislative Library

Net Debt and Deficit

The net debt for 2019-20 is estimated at $355.2 billion, increasing to $379.2 billion in 2020-21.  The interest payment to service the debt was $12.6 billion in 2019-20 and is expected to increase to $13.2 billion in 2020-21 (representing 7.6% of total expenses).  The net debttoGDP ratio for 2019-20 is expected to equal 39.9%, and is forecast to grow to 41.7% in 2020–21.

The Ministry is projecting a deficit of $9.2 billion in 2019-20, and a further deficit of $20.5 billion in 2020-21.  The sharp increase in the deficit is expected as a result of higher program spending, alongside lower expected revenues following the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The government borrowed a total of $36 billion in 2019-20.

Tax-Related Measures

The government is proposing new tax-related measures to address the financial hardship experienced by individuals and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

· A temporary doubling of the employer health tax exemption — the Employer Health Tax (EHT) exemption will be retroactively increased from $490,000 to $1 million for 2020, returning to the current level in 2021.  The change will result in 57,000 businesses paying less EHT.

· Providing interest and penalty relief — starting April 1, 2020, for a period of five months, penalties and interest will not apply to businesses that miss filing or remitting provincially administered taxes.  The measure is expected to provide up to $6 billion in liquidity support for 100,000 businesses in Ontario.

· Introducing the Regional Opportunities Investment Tax Credit — a new, 10% refundable Corporate Income Tax credit for capital investments between $50,000 and $500,000, subject to some conditions is being introduced.

· Postponing planned property tax reassessment — the reassessment scheduled for spring 2020 is postponed.  Assessments for the 2021 taxation year will continue to be based on the same valuation date that was in effect for the 2020 taxation year.

Ontario’s Action Plan

At the heart of Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19 is the government’s stated $17 billion in supports, comprised of $7 billion for health care and support for people and jobs, and $10 billion in tax credits and tax deferrals.  The main elements of the Action Plan are highlighted in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Highlights of Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID‑19

First section: The chart shows Ontario is investing 3.3 billion dollars in support for health care with 2.1 billion in COVID 19 response measures and 1.2 billion in measures to improve health care. Second section: The chart shows Ontario is investing 3.7 billion dollars in support for people and jobs with 2.0 billion in targeted supports, 290 million in new tax measures and 1.5 billion for electricity cost relief. Third section: The chart shows that in total these measures represent 7.0 billion dollars in direct support for people and jobs. Fourth section: The chart shows Ontario is investing 10.0 billion dollars in support for people and businesses to improve cash flow with 6.0 billion in deferred taxes for 100,000 businesses, 1.9 billion in Workplace Safety and Insurance Board expense deferrals for employers and 1.8 billion by deferring municipal education property tax payments.

Source: Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19


Bill 188 (the Economic and Fiscal Update Act, 2020)

Bill 188, the Economic and Fiscal Update Act, 2020, was introduced, passed, and received Royal Assent on March 25, 2020.  The legislation implemented several measures aimed at mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, including measures mentioned in the Economic and Fiscal Update March 2020 and Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19.

In addition to amendments to the Employer Health Tax Act (doubling the exemption amount for employers) and the Taxation Act, 2007 (establishing the Regional Opportunities Investment Tax Credit), Bill 188

· enacted the Hearings in Tribunal Proceedings (Temporary Measures) Act, 2020, which enables administrative tribunals to determine the way in which they hold hearings; the key provision states: “A tribunal may conduct a hearing in person, electronically, in writing or by a combination of any of them, as the tribunal considers appropriate”;

· amended the Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income Act to provide that the maximum amount payable to low income seniors is doubled for the six-month period beginning April 1 and ending September 30, 2020; and

· enacted the Ontario Loan Act, 2020, authorizing the province to borrow a maximum of $31.2 billion.

Letters Filed by Party Leaders and Independent Members

The House motion of March 25 provides that the Committee’s review is to include consideration of letters from the party leaders and independent Members, “containing their recommendations to the Minister of Finance with respect to the economic and fiscal measures they proposed to be included in the provisions of Bill 188.”

Three party leaders and one independent Member filed letters with the Speaker in late March 2020.  The main recommendations contained in these letters are noted below; the letters themselves are reproduced in full in Appendix B.

Letter from the Leader of the New Democratic Party

The letter groups recommendations under four main headings:

· Bolstering our healthcare system, including an immediate boost to hospital funding for the coming year by a minimum of $1 billion, a halt to all plans for public health restructuring, and dedicated funding for childcare for health care and essential workers.

· Supporting households, including the establishment of an Ontario Emergency Income program to support households experiencing unemployment or lost income, and interest-free utility bill deferrals for people in financial need.

· Bolstering small and medium-sized businesses, including working with other levels of government to halt the collection of all payroll, property, sales, and income taxes from small and medium-sized businesses.

· Support for municipalities, including ensuring that municipalities that defer the collection of property taxes may also defer the payment of taxes owed to the province.

Letter from the Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party

The letter focuses on three areas: health and safety, economic security, and economic recovery.  Specific proposals include a crack-down on price gouging, removal of barriers to community-spread COVID-19 testing, testing of all long-term care home staff, financial relief for low income wage earners, suspension of provincial payroll taxes, further relief from electricity prices, a clear strategy for preserving the school year, and more funding for mental health programs.

Letter from the Leader of the Ontario Green Party

Recommendations address the need for a basic income, manufacturing solutions to increase public health supplies, enhanced wage support for businesses and non-profits, job-protected sick leave, childcare for essential service workers, deferral of residential and commercial rent, electricity bill, and municipal education tax payments, an emergency response plan for shelters and prisons, an emergency fund for municipalities and Indigenous communities, and a stabilization fund for food security organizations.

Letter from Independent MPP

MPP Randy Hillier would like the Committee to examine four aspects of Bill 188 and the Economic and Fiscal Update: the government’s forecasts; the $4.8 billion in reserve funds; the $32 billion in authorized borrowings; and the implications for personal privacy.

What the Committee Heard

Minister of Finance

The Minister of Finance, the Honourable Rod Phillips, appeared before the Committee on June 1, 2020.

At the outset, and on a personal note, the Minister observed that the COVID-19 crisis “is an extraordinary threat to the health of the economy of Ontario, the biggest that we’ve faced in my lifetime.  It demands an extraordinary response from all of us, because we are all in this together.”

After reviewing key aspects of the Economic and Fiscal Update and Ontario’s Action Plan, the Minister informed the Committee that the government will be releasing its next update before August 15, and that a multi-year budget will be presented to the Legislature by November 15, 2020.



The Minister outlined a series of measures the government has taken since Ontario’s Action Plan was released last March.  These include:

· expanding hospital capacity to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, including thousands of acute and critical care beds and ensuring that hospital staff are available to deal with surges of patients;

· providing frontline workers with a temporary pandemic pay of $4 per hour on top of regular wages;

· providing monthly lump sum payments of $250 for four months to frontline workers who work more than 100 hours per month;

· providing emergency funding of up to $12 million to immediately expand online and virtual mental health supports;

· creating the $20-million Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund (currently supporting “15 high-quality and promising proposals to prevent, detect and treat COVID-19”);

· doubling the amount paid to low-income seniors under the Guaranteed Annual Income System for a period of six months to cover essential expenses during the pandemic (see Bill 188); and

· contributing $241 million to the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program, which will provide relief to small businesses and their landlords.

The Minister also provided an update on the work of the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee (OJRC), a Cabinet committee convened by the Minister at the Premier’s request and comprised of the ministers responsible for those areas of the economy that have been most affected by the pandemic.[1]  According to the Minister, the OJRC’s “first order of business” is to plan for the reopening of the economy.  Toward this end, it has sought the advice of businesses, unions, not-for-profit organizations, and individuals.  In addition, a new digital consultation initiative will allow for direct consultation with the public.

On a sobering note, the Minister reported that 402,800 Ontarians had lost their jobs in March, and that a further 689,200 had been lost in April.  “Those job numbers,” he said, “underscore the significant economic impact of COVID-19 and serve as a stark reminder of the personal impacts that this crisis is having, in addition to those who have been affected by the health issues related to the virus.”

Minister Phillips concluded his opening remarks with some clarifications of the government’s framework for reopening the province, announced at the end of April.  Currently, the province is in the first stage of the three-stage reopening plan.  In this first stage, businesses such as golf courses, nurseries, and marinas, as well as retail stores with a street entrance have been allowed to reopen.  Certain health and medical services, and work at all construction sites has also resumed.

Before moving to the next stage, there must be progress in controlling the pandemic for a two- to four-week period.  Within each stage, businesses will be permitted to open if they meet public health guidelines.  To assist businesses in this regard, the government has published more than 90 workplace safety guidelines.

The Minister stressed that the reopening process will be guided by advice from Ontario’s public health officials.

Questions from the Committee

Committee members questioned the Minister on a wide range of issues.  Questioning related specifically to the Economic and Fiscal Update included the following:

· Commercial Tenancies — To date the main support for commercial tenancies has been the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program.  Ontario’s contribution to the program is $241 million.  CECRA provides forgivable loans to landlords to cover 50% of monthly rent owed by small business tenants during the three-month period of April, May, and June 2020; tenants are responsible for covering up to 25% of rent.  CECRA is a voluntary program, and according to feedback received by some Committee members, the early signs are that commercial landlords are reluctant to participate.  The Minister was therefore asked if the government is prepared to take action beyond its participation in CECRA; for example, would it consider an Ontario commercial rent subsidy, a freeze on commercial rents, and/or a temporary ban on commercial tenancy evictions?  The Minister responded that it is too early to say whether CECRA is working, since it was launched only at the end of May.  He said that first indications are good, as in its first few days the program received over a thousand applications from landlords.  The Government will continue to monitor program participation.

· Tax Payment Deferrals — Ontario’s Action Plan provides $10 billion in deferrals, including $6 billion in deferrals of most provincial taxes for 100,000 businesses.  Deferrals are for a period of five months, and are intended to improve the cash flows of Ontario businesses.  According to one Committee member, “the business community is not impressed with deferred payments.  They just see that as debt that will be like an albatross around their neck in six months, and that will compromise our ability to recover as an economy.”  By contrast, another member quoted the following statement from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce: “A six-month deferral on WSIB premiums for employers will provide relief to many businesses struggling to keep their lights on.  Similarly, the deferral of the 10 provincially-administrated taxes from April 1 to August 31 will help support businesses as they try to stay afloat.”  The Minister was asked if he believes deferrals are an adequate form of support in the longer term, and whether the government would consider either extending deferral periods or implementing a debt forgiveness program.  The Minister responded that the deferral program has, in fact, “been widely heralded by the business community as an appropriate support.”  He also stressed that relief measures such as the tax payment deferral program have been implemented in coordination with all levels of government, and have been undertaken, in part, at the request of Canadian businesses, which have told governments, “please, be clear and be coordinated as much as you can.”

· Costs of Reopening — Committee members have heard from small business owners that they may need assistance in covering the costs of reopening.  The cost of fitting taxi cabs and restaurants with plexiglass was cited as one example.  Asked if the government would consider dedicated funding to assist with these costs, the Minister said this is “one of the most important issues” businesses will face as the economy reopens, and noted that the government has provided a range of support in this regard, including funding the allocation of personal protective equipment (PPE) to private businesses.  In addition, the Ministry of Finance has provided information to small and large businesses on best practices for reopening (the Minister referenced 90 guidelines for this in his opening remarks). The agriculture sector has received over $2 million in supports to ensure continued operations in current conditions.

· Insurance — Committee members noted that one of the side-effects of the economic shutdown has been a dramatic decline in the types of activities covered by insurance; for example, fewer people are driving to work.  As a result, it might be assumed that insurance companies have seen a sharp drop in claims and claims costs.  The Committee therefore asked the Minister if he would be considering regulatory measures requiring insurers to provide premium relief for businesses such as taxi cab companies that are simply “trying to stay alive.”  The Minister agreed that the insurance industry “needs to do more,” and said that this is why the government recently met with industry representatives to find out why drivers were not receiving rebates.  When the industry said that rebates required regulatory changes, the government responded within a week.  Seven of the 14 companies that account for 97% of the province’s auto insurance market are now offering rebates.  The Minister also assured the Committee that the government “will continue to apply the appropriate pressure and we will continue to make the point that the customers at the auto insurance companies now will be their customers in the future.  Driving behaviour has clearly changed and we expect to see action.”

· Anti-Black Racism — Committee members report hearing from Black business owners that anti-Black racism has historically made it difficult for these businesses to access capital, and that the current pandemic has only heightened concerns around this issue.  The Committee asked if the government would consider a designated emergency fund to help these businesses survive the economic shutdown.  The Minister in response noted that he had recently participated in a round table with the Premier and the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce to discuss a range of options, including the possibility of a designated emergency fund.  He acknowledged that anti-Black racism is an issue in Ontario and said that the government will be considering all options as the situation evolves.

· Indigenous Communities — The Minister responded to a request for an update on direct funding programs for Indigenous communities in the Far North.  To date, the government has provided a total of $37.8 million in support, including $16.4 million in emergency funding through the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs for food, household goods, critical supplies, and transportation.  An additional $10 million has been provided through the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services to support Indigenous communities and agencies, and a further $11 million through the Ministries of Municipal Affairs and Transportation to support Indigenous people living off-reserve.

· Education — According to the Economic and Fiscal Update, funding for the education sector is projected to increase by $100 million in 2019–20 and by $500 million in 2020–21, mainly to support higher student enrolment and investments in child care programs.  The Committee asked how the COVID-19 crisis might affect these numbers; for example, has the government considered the fact that social distancing protocols may require smaller, not larger, class sizes, or that school facilities such as washrooms may require modification?  The Minister agreed that the province will need to “adapt and adjust” to the evolving situation in the education sector and to “keep parents directly informed with regard to how we are going to proceed, how our classes are going to proceed and how they are going to be done safely.”  The August update will provide additional information.

· Electricity Rates — The Economic and Fiscal Update indicates that “additional funding” will support electricity cost relief programs, including the Ontario Electricity Rebate for eligible residential, farm, and small business consumers.  Committee members questioned whether this “additional funding” is, in fact, new funding, given that it was announced in January 2020.  According to the Minister, the additional funding is $1.5 billion in new money in this fiscal year, and is in addition to the funding necessary to cover the elimination of time-of-use pricing.  The funds announced in the March update bring the total hydro subsidy to $5.6 billion, and are intended to assist Ontarians who will be spending more time at home during the pandemic and therefore using more electricity.

· Testing and Contact Tracing — As noted by the Minister, one of the key pre-conditions for restarting the economy is ensuring that the province is meeting its COVID-19 testing targets, and that it is able to conduct adequate contact tracing, especially in the event of a “second wave” or “flare ups.”  The Minister expressed support for a national approach to contact tracing, including a possible contact tracing application (app).  Knowing that these measures are in place, he said, will go a long way towards restoring consumer confidence.  Committee members asked if “cuts” to the public health budget in 2019 have made it more difficult for the province to meet these goals.  The Minister responded that the government has “provided $100 million of direct additional support through our municipal partners as part of the quarter of a billion dollars that was provided to municipalities, and an additional $60 million to support the broader public health initiative.”

· COVID-19 Contingency Fund — The Economic and Fiscal Update establishes a COVID19 health sector response contingency fund of $1 billion, for any emerging needs to support the Provinces timely response to the outbreak.  Asked for more details on the purpose of this fund, the Minister noted that when the government was preparing its one-year update, “we knew less then than we know now” about how the pandemic would unfold.  Accordingly, it was decided that there should be adequate resources to address a rapidly changing environment, particularly in the area of health.  For example, the fund could support the purchase of additional PPE and additional COVID-19 testing.  The Minister also noted the government has created a $1.3-billion general contingency fund and a $2.5-billion reserve fund, “larger than it has ever been in the history of this province.”  These funds will support additional spending requirements in health and other vital areas, as well as help address pressures on the revenue side.

· Effect of Global Markets — In light of the global nature of the COVID-19 crisis, the Committee asked: To what extent is an economic recovery in Ontario dependent on global markets?  The Minister prefaced his response by conceding that Ontario “is very, very reliant on global trade and, in particular, reliant on trade with the United States”; for example, he noted that Ontario is the number one trading partner for 19 states.  Cabinet’s Jobs and Recovery Committee, he said, is well aware of the importance of our relationship with the United States, and is conducting an analysis of how to sustain the supply chain between Ontario and US jurisdictions.  At the same time, the Minster emphasized that “we will never again be caught in a situation where we are dependent on a border to get the vital PPE that’s needed to Ontario health care professionals and others.”

Financial Accountability Officer

Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer (FAO), Peter Weltman, appeared before the Committee on June 1, 2020, as the Committee’s second witness (the FAO’s submission is reproduced in Appendix C).

The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (Office) provides analysis of the provincial economy and the government’s fiscal position, as well as projections on the financial impact of its policies and programs.  The Office supports MPPs and encourages transparency in budgeting and financial reporting.  The FAO presented the Committee with a point-in-time overview of Ontario’s economic and budget outlook that he said can be used as a baseline for measuring future developments.  The outlook is heavily dependent on the pace and timing of the reopening of the economy in the months ahead.

The FAO projected that real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would decline by 9% in 2020, and partially rebound, by 8.5%, in 2021.  This projection is based on the assumption that the current shutdown continues into the summer, and is gradually lifted throughout the fall.  On the labour market front, data from March and April suggest that 2.2 million Ontario workers have been affected by the pandemic-related shutdown, with 1.1 million losing their jobs, and a further 1.1 million having their working hours reduced.  Consequently, the unemployment rate in Ontario reached 11.3% in April.

The shutdown is expected to affect Ontario’s fiscal position in two ways: loss of tax revenue from business shutdowns and loss of jobs, and increased spending in response to the pandemic.  The overall impact is a budget deficit of $41 billion (5% of GDP) in 2020-21.  The deficit is expected to decrease to $25.3 billion in 2021-22 ($37 billion if the recovery is slow), with cumulative debt reaching $435 billion by the end of the 2020-21 fiscal year.  The increase in debt is projected to result in Ontario’s debt-to-GDP ratio rising to 48.7% in 2021-22.  Lower interest rates will reduce the province’s borrowing costs, with debt servicing payments increasing by 4.5%.

Committee members inquired about the apparent discrepancy between figures reported by the government and the FAO for direct funding amounts in response to the pandemic, and the expected deficit.  As noted earlier, in March 2020 the government reported $7 billion in direct supports in response to the pandemic.  An independent FAO analysis stated that $4.5 billion of that amount was new, direct funding in response to the pandemic; however, the remaining $2.6 billion (funding for hospitals and electricity bill subsidies) was said by the FAO to be ongoing funding, which had been earmarked for the 2019-20 fiscal year prior to the pandemic.  In addition, some funds were provided to reverse cuts to healthcare and public health announced in the 2019 Budget. 

The FAO also stated that some of the inconsistency in the reporting of the deficit could be the result of the government publishing its outlook a few months earlier than the FAO, before additional financial data became available.  The FAO is currently working on producing a document detailing how the government borrows money, as well as a regional demographic breakdown of the effects of the electricity subsidy on household finances.

The Committee also requested details on the FAO’s modelling methodology.  The FAO explained that his Office takes into account programs implemented by the federal government to address the pandemic, and incorporates factors such as the federal wage subsidy into its projections.  Further, the FAO is implementing a gender-based analysis, assessing the impact of the pandemic on jobs, broken down by gender. The Committee heard that the hardest-hit sectors of the economy are “public-facing” (retail, restaurants, hospitality), where women, immigrants, and youth comprise a relatively higher proportion of employment.

Asked to elaborate on the province’s contingency funding, the FAO said that the term can refer to two types of funds: a “contingency fund” is held at the Treasury Board and is used to supplement programs requiring extra funding; “unallocated funds” are also given to ministries to hold in reserve.  The FAO will be providing quarterly spending updates that will specify amounts spent in different areas.  The 2019 Q4 report is expected in early July, with the 2020 Q1 report to follow later in the summer.  Commenting on the importance of regular financial reporting, the FAO said that transparency is a critical link to maintaining the trust between governments and their citizenry.  The FAO agreed with the Committee that performance measurement should include factors beyond just the amount of money spent, including for example, factors such as service levels.

Responding to Committee questions on “fiscal capacity,” the FAO explained that the term refers to the limit of how much a government can borrow before its bonds become unattractive to investors.  The FAO said that the federal government has a significantly higher fiscal capacity than the Province.

The Committee requested that the FAO

· track and analyze bankruptcies that occur in the Province during the Committee’s period of study, also tracking the themes covered in the study, and provide the Committee with this information; and

· provide the Committee with a breakdown of Ontario and federal government pandemic responses, focusing on the proportion of investment made by each level of government.

Committee Recommendations

The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs recommends that:

1.         The House should partake in the opportunity to contribute to the consultations of the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, and host local consultations to determine the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and how the government can best support an economic recovery, and report to the Minister of Finance on the number and results of those consultations.

2.         The Province should continue to work collaboratively with the federal government and municipalities to address the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, with an emphasis on those areas of the economy most affected by it.

3.         The Government should provide the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and the public with regular fiscal updates as it responds to the changing nature of the COVID-19 crisis.




Appendix A:
Terms of Reference



That the Leaders of the parties represented in the Legislative Assembly as well as Independent Members may file copies of letters with the Speaker, who shall cause them to be laid upon the Table, containing their recommendations to the Minister of Finance with respect to the economic and fiscal measures they proposed to be included in the provisions of Bill 188, and such letters shall be deemed to be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs; and

That when the committees of the Legislature resume meeting, the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs shall be authorized to consider the Party Leader and Independent Member letters, together with An Act to enact and amend various statutes as passed by the Legislature today, with the first witness during such consideration to be the Minister of Finance;

*Votes and Proceedings, March 25, 2020, 42nd Parliament, 1st Session

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or Special Order of the House, the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, and all other committees when they are authorized to resume meeting pursuant to the Order of the House dated March 19, 2020, are authorized to use electronic means of communication when meeting, and committee members, witnesses, and/or staff are not required to be in one physical place, in accordance with the following guidelines:

a) The electronic means of communication is approved by the Speaker;

b) The meeting is held in a room in the Legislative Building, and at least the Chair/Acting Chair, and the Clerk of the Committee are physically present;

c) Other Members of the committee participating by electronic means of communication, whose identity and location within the Province of Ontario have been verified by the Chair, are deemed to be present and included in quorum;

d) The Chair shall ensure that the Standing Orders and regular committee practices are observed to the greatest extent possible, making adjustments to committee procedures only where necessary to facilitate the physical distancing and electronic participation of Members, witnesses, and staff; and

That, notwithstanding the Order of the House dated March 19, 2020, the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs is authorized to meet at the call of the Chair to consider its Order of Reference dated March 25, 2020, respecting the Economic and Fiscal Update Act, 2020 (Bill 188); and

To study the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the following sectors of the economy and measures which will contribute to their recovery:

a) Tourism

b) Culture and Heritage

c) Municipalities, Construction, and Building

d) Infrastructure

e) Small and Medium Enterprises

f) Other economic sectors selected by the Committee

• The committee shall study Bill 188 and each specified economic sector for up to 3 weeks with one additional week allotted for report-writing for each.

• The Sub-committee on Committee Business shall determine the method of proceeding on the study, and at its discretion, may extend each sectoral study by one week where a public holiday may fall during the scheduled time for the sectoral study.

• The Legislative Research Service shall make itself available to the Committee collectively, and to members of the Committee individually, on a priority basis.

• That in accordance with s. 11 (1) of the Financial Accountability Officer Act the Financial Accountability Officer shall make the resources of his office available to the Committee collectively, and to members of the Committee individually, on a priority basis.

• The time for questioning witnesses shall be apportioned in equal blocks to each of the recognized parties and to the Independent Members as a group.

• The Committee may present or, if the House is not sitting, may release by depositing with the Clerk of the House, interim reports, and a copy of each interim report shall be provided by the Committee to the Chair of the Ontario Jobs and Economic Recovery Cabinet Committee; and

• The Committee shall present or, if the House is not sitting, shall release by depositing with the Clerk of the House, its final report to the Assembly by October 8, 2020 and a copy of the final report shall be provided by the Committee to the Chair of the Ontario Jobs and Economic Recovery Cabinet Committee; and

That notwithstanding Standing Orders 38 (b), (c), and (d) the interim reports presented under this Order of Reference shall not be placed on the Orders and Notices Paper for further consideration by the House nor shall the government be required to table a comprehensive response; and

That notwithstanding Standing Orders 116 (a), (b) and (c), the membership of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs for the duration of its consideration of the Order of Reference provided for in this motion shall be:

Mr. Sandhu, Chair [Sub-committee Chair]

Mr. Roberts, Vice-Chair

Mr. Arthur

Mr. Cho (Willowdale) [Sub-committee Member]

Mr. Crawford

Ms. Hunter [Sub-committee Member]

Mr. Mamakwa

Mr. Piccini

Mr. Schreiner

Ms. Shaw [Sub-committee Member]

Ms. Skelly [Sub-committee Member]

Mr. Smith (Peterborough—Kawartha)

Ms. Andrew (non-voting member)

Mr. Blais (non-voting member)

Ms. Fife (non-voting member)

Mr. Hillier (non-voting member)

Ms. Khanjin (non-voting member)

Mr. Rasheed (non-voting member)

Mr. Vanthof (non-voting member); and

That, should the electronic participation of any voting Member of the Committee be temporarily interrupted as a result of technical issues, a non-voting Member of the same party shall be permitted to cast a vote in their absence.

*Votes and Proceedings, May 12, 2020, 42nd Parliament, 1st Session


Appendix B:
Letters filed by Party Leaders and Independent Members




Sunday, March 22, 2020


To: Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario

       Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance

       Paul Calandra, Government House Leader


From: Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition New Democrats


Subject: New Democrat Suggestions for the Financial Statement


On Friday, the Government House Leader informed New Democrat House Leader Gilles Bisson that the government would be willing to accept suggestions with regards to the upcoming Financial Statement provided they were provided before the end of the weekend.


New Democrats support the Finance Minister’s decision not to present a full Budget given economic uncertainty amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the government should act urgently to bolster healthcare funding to fight the pandemic, protect Ontario’s economy and support families and businesses facing significant economic disruption.


This submission lays out key measures the government should urgently take to address the current crisis.


Bolstering our healthcare system


Our health care system needs immediate investment and support. In last year’s Budget, the government’s healthcare investment barely kept pace with inflation and hospital funding was effectively frozen. The Financial Accountability Office analysis noted that the 2019 budget cut overall health spending by $2.7 billion over the next two years as compared to the 2018 budget plan. We now need urgent investment:


· Immediately enhance hospital funding for the coming year by a minimum of $1 billion. The Ontario Hospital Association indicated in their pre-Budget submission, before the COVID-19 outbreak, that this amount (a 4.85 per cent increase in hospital sector funding) was needed simply to address underlying inflationary pressure, and the need to increase service volume and create capacity at the local level.[2]

· Halt all plans for public health restructuring and increase financial support. Provide 100 per cent provincial funding to public health units, so that they are not relying on municipalities for 30 per cent of their funding, especially while municipalities have paused revenue tools like property tax payments.

· Create a fund to recruit back and retain Personal Support Workers (PSWs), many of which have left the profession. The PSW shortage in Ontario was already hurting home care and long-term care before the COVID-19 outbreak. Now it risks hindering COVID-19 containment efforts. Trained PSWs have left the field for other professions[3] and now urgently need to be encouraged to return. Wage and benefit enhancements with longer term plans to provide greater job stability would help achieve this.

· Offer dedicated funding for child-care and other supports for health care, emergency and any other workers deemed essential. The Government’s new Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies) specifically reserves the right of the government to exempt any class of workers deemed essential. New Democrats agreed to this provision but now it is incumbent on us as a province to provide whatever support these essential workers need as they do their part in this pandemic.

· Provide necessary funding in home and community care to ensure no disruption to critical services like dialysis and cancer treatment. The Government has announced plans to ramp down non-urgent services in hospitals and free up hospital beds by moving patients to community settings. While it is important that hospitals get all the resources they need to respond to COVID-19, the government still needs to ensure they will not reduce or cut critical, lifesavings services provided in the community.

· Set aside additional, dedicated funding to enact measures to protect seniors. Seniors are a vulnerable population measures here should include:

Enhanced supports for screening at all centres that provide health care services to seniors (long-term care homes, retirement homes, supportive housing, and assisted living)

Ensure that seniors have access to medication they need, and that they may receive at home so they do not put themselves at risk by going in public to get their medication.


Supporting Households


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact to millions of Ontario households and the overall economy. Economists estimate that we are now seeing the highest number of Employment Insurance claims ever and the largest employment drop in Canadian history[4]. Urgent action is needed to supplement federal support that will not be adequate or timely enough to meet people’s needs:


· Establish an Ontario Emergency Income program to provide households experiencing unemployment or lost income.

o With an Ontario Emergency Income, any household experiencing unemployment or  reduced income would be able apply for a one-time $2,000 cheque or direct deposit.

o Individuals already enrolled in support programs including Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support Program, Employment Insurance, and the federal Emergency Care Benefit should be automatically enrolled.

o Families with dependents would qualify for an additional $250 per child.

o Payments should be received by April 1, making it possible for monthly expenses due on the first of the month to be paid.

o Enrolling should be available by phone and online to anyone who declares a need.

o People who take advantage of the fund that have not lost their job or had their income  reduced will have payments clawed back on their provincial taxes. New Democrats are ready to work with the government and the Ministry of Finance to determine exact criteria.

o This emergency benefit will help households in the immediate term. The government should then work with the federal government to bring in a program for ongoing income support for Ontarians throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

· Order all utilities to provide interest-free bill deferrals of up to six months to anyone who cites financial need, with penalty-free repayment plans.

· Immediately cancel Time Of Use hydro billing.

· Take whatever steps are needed, including legislation, to ensure that no one can be evicted for any reason during the pandemic, nor punished in any way for missing a rent payment. Despite government measures to stop eviction proceedings many tenants are worried about falling into arrears. Moreover, some tenants report that landlords have issued eviction notices regardless of government action. The Government should work with rent banks and financial institutions to institute grants and interest free loans to ensure no one loses their home or sees living conditions affected because of the pandemic and should institute legislation to ensure those protections.

· All programs and all funding to agencies and organizations currently being funded through transfer payments should be automatically renewed for the upcoming fiscal year so that staff can be retained and people’s needs are met. This should be communicated immediately to the broader public sector including non-profit agencies and organizations.

· Create a new stabilization fund for the non-profit sector to provide financial support for non-profits like food banks. Food banks and other non-profits are reporting declining revenues and increasing need. Their efforts are vital at this time.

· Designate immediate emergency funding for the shelter system, outreach and harm reduction to ensure that vulnerable populations have the support they need to stay healthy and enforce social distancing instructions.


Bolstering small and medium-sized businesses


· Enhance wage subsidies. The federal government has offered a 10 per cent wage subsidy program for small businesses. Many small businesses have noted that this amount will not be sufficient to maintain employment. The province should institute a substantial top-up, so employers can afford to maintain staff on the payroll while business is hampered.[5]

· Working with other levels of government, immediately halt the collection of all payroll, property, sales, and income taxes from small and medium-sized business; including ceasing issuing penalties and fines on taxes owed and limit audits for the remainder of the year fiscal year. Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters have indicated this measure will help businesses who have been hit with severe economic disruption.

· Institute a utility payment freeze for small and medium-sized businesses.

· Postpone tourism and marketing fees for businesses in the hospitality sector. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has recommended this measure to support the hospitality sector.

· Dedicate additional resources to ensure the food supply chain is maintained and responsive to shortages, including direct support to growers and animal agriculture. 

· Create a remote-work set up fund for small-businesses — which could help them with things like setting up an online retail operation, or buying laptops and software for their workforce.

· Work with the insurance industry and the Financial Services Regulatory Authority to institute an auto-insurance grace period for taxis and car-sharing drivers.


Support for municipalities


Municipal governments have limited revenue tools and fiscal capacity, yet the services they provide will be vitally important to Ontarians during the COVID-19 pandemic.


· For municipalities that institute property tax deferrals, ensure the flexibility to defer their remittance of relevant taxes to the province.

· As previously noted, provide 100 per cent provincial funding to public health units, so that they are not relying on municipalities for 30 per cent of their funding, especially while municipalities have paused revenue tools like property tax payments.




March 25, 2020


The Honourable Rod Phillips

Minister of Finance

7 Queen's Park Crescent, 7th floor

Toronto, Ontario

M7A 1Y7


Dear Minister,


Prior to the COVID-19 crisis confronting us, Ontario families had been working hard and playing by the rules. And then they were sideswiped by this terrible virus. They need their government to be there for them and I believe it’s my responsibility to make sure that the Ontario government rises to the occasion to do what it can to support Ontario families and businesses.


There are three priorities through which I am measuring the effectiveness of today’s economic update from the Ontario government. And those are:


The health and safety of Ontarians;

The economic security of Ontarians in the short and medium term;

The recovery of the Ontario economy so that it can once again create the jobs and opportunities our families are counting on.


From the very beginning, I have been determined to work with the government, collaboratively, to help the people we are honoured to serve.


Ontario must take measures now to protect the economic well-being of workers and businesses. Last week, I wrote to you to advocate you match the 10% federal wage subsidy, dollar for dollar. I stand by that but urge you now to consider even more funding to protect jobs and keep food on the table. This is not in the economic and fiscal update that was tabled today – I urge you to take action before it is too late.


I will re-iterate that I hope you study these recommendations carefully. These measures have not been included in today’s legislative package:


Stop price gouging. Use the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to stop retailers from gouging customers on items such as Lysol wipes, toilet paper and more.


Remove barriers to testing. While we recognize there is a backlog that must be cleared, we recognize that COVID-19 is affecting more and more Ontarians through community spread. The current testing regulations must be changed to reflect that.


Test all staff in long-term care facilities. We must work quickly to protect our seniors. In communities where community spread is detected, immediately move to test all staff in vulnerable facilities.


Provide help and support to Ontario’s must vulnerable. Leverage existing programs to provide immediate financial relief to those on Ontario Works and ODSP, create a program to support workers who are being hit the hardest (retail, minimum wage earners), and appoint an ombudsperson responsible for responding to the needs of the most vulnerable during this crisis.


Introduce a six-month suspension of provincial payroll charges (like WSIB and Employer Health Tax premiums) for businesses with up to 300 employees, and make it retroactive to January 1st, 2020. This should be a suspension of charges – not a deferral.


Provide Ontarians further relief on electricity prices by temporarily removing distribution and regulatory charges.



Permit licensed establishments providing take-out and delivery services to temporarily sell alcohol.


Be clear about how to preserve the school year using whatever innovative techniques are required, because Ontario cannot afford to fail our students who need to keep learning.


Dramatically scale-up funding to finally provide universal mental health support and treatment. It’s become clear that the impact of this crisis on our mental health will be considerable and we will need this support in order to weather the storm.



We look forward to your response to these recommendations. Ontario must do everything it can to weather this storm.







Steven Del Duca



Premier Doug Ford

Legislative Building

Queen's Park

Toronto ON M7A 1A1


March 20, 2020


Dear Premier Ford,

There is no question that you have a tremendous amount of work on your desk right now as you guide our province through this unprecedented health crisis.

In the spirit of cross-party collaboration, and as I stated in the House yesterday, I am here, ready and willing to help the Government however I can to ensure we have the most comprehensive and effective response plan.

Below are the recommendations as influenced by my constituents and the public of Ontario writ large. I would encourage your team to review them and be in contact should they have any questions, need further information or need any assistance.

  1. Basic income security payments

Experts say that we need to put money in people’s pockets as quickly as possible in order to soften the blow to our economy. While the federal government has sped up access to EI and has announced emergency support payments for some, the reality is that it is not enough, especially for those who are in precarious jobs, self-employed, and on social assistance. Ontario has to fill in the gap. We need economic measures, such as a basic income, to ensure no one falls through the cracks under the weight of this pandemic.

  1. Increase in public health supplies and support

I am aware of the dangerously low levels of necessary health supplies across the province. We must work across party lines to come up with manufacturing solutions if the issue is indeed a shortage of supplies. I have a distiller in Guelph who is manufacturing hand sanitizer and providing it for free, however this is not a financially viable situation for his business. I have also been in contact with a manufacturer in Guelph who has proposed modifying CPAP machines to make ventilators. I would be happy to ensure these connections and ideas are moving forward.

It is also highly recommended that assessment centres be moved away from hospitals. Hotels, dormitories, schools, convention centres could all be viable sites for the testing.

  1. Cash flow support for businesses and nonprofits

Small businesses, charities and non-profits aren’t sure if they have the financial means to survive prolonged closures. While the federal government is providing a 10% wage support, this simply isn’t enough. Denmark is providing 75% wage support. I would implore the Ontario government to top up the Federal government’s support to a more viable amount. It is also imperative that non-profits and charities are included as these are the organizations that we have and will continue to lean on to provide social supports for our communities.

  1. Job protected paid sick leave

Recognizing the financial hit most businesses, and in particular small businesses have already taken by this crisis, I would encourage the government to provide monetary support to businesses for the direct purpose of compensating those who have been forced to take sick leave as a result of Covid-19. Job protection was an important first step, but paid sick leave is necessary.

  1. Rent and mortgage payment delays for people, businesses and nonprofits

Appreciating that many large banks have provided mortgage deferrals, not all businesses and non-profits are benefiting from the deferrals. Further, while you have ordered the halt of evictions until further notice, we are receiving notice that landlords are continuing to evict for lack of payment, and further, that rent deferrals are not being offered despite the landlord receiving a deferral on their mortgage payment. This inequity should be addressed through legislation quickly.

  1. Free childcare for all essential service workers

As Quebec has done, Ontario must provide free childcare for all essential workers. This is an imperative measure to ensure that our front-line workers, including those who are keeping our grocery stores and pharmacies operating, are able to do so.

  1. Grace period on hydro and other utility bills

There has been significant interest from the community for a temporary freeze in the peak usage rate program for hydro. I would first recommend a holiday for hydro and provincially regulated utility bills during the pandemic. At the very least, I would recommend that consumers are given the option to temporarily opt out of the freeze on the peak usage rate for the period of the pandemic. This will provide essential relief for those with reduced incomes and cash flow.

  1. Deferral of the payment of Municipal Education Taxes

In order to allow municipalities to have the financial flexibility to defer property tax payments by residents and small businesses, your government could defer the payment of Municipal Education Taxes from municipalities to the Provincial government.

  1. Emergency response plan for shelters and prisons

Media today are reporting a confirmed case of Covid-19 of a correctional officer at the Toronto South Detention Centre. As you know, the prison population and its correctional staff are at an extremely high risk for contracting and spreading Covid-19. Homeless shelters in our community may be at an even higher risk. With our homeless, there are no options for self-isolation. We have been fielding calls from Guelph’s homeless asking for a solution to their inability to isolate. Further, the homeless are being turned away from shelters and other services if they exhibit any signs of illness. They are being left without anywhere to turn. Municipalities need immediate funding to immediately address the homeless crisis. We need a plan for both of these communities immediately. For example, this could include using hotels or empty dormitories to allow members of the homeless population to isolate.

  1. Emergency fund for First Nation communities

Our First Nation Communities require dedicated funding to assist them in tackling the crisis that will be exacerbated in many remote and fly-in communities. This includes the insurance of clean water and food delivery at reasonable prices. These communities should be consulted on the specific resources they require to weather this crisis.

  1. Stabilization fund for food security organizations

Food banks and other food security organizations have a shortage of food supplies. Relying on public good will to donate is an insufficient response, especially with so many donors short on cash themselves. They must receive dedicated resources to ensure the vulnerable people in our society continue to be fed. 

We have also been provided with the following practical recommendations and was encouraged by Mr. Calandra to forward them over.

  1. Suspend limitation periods in the Limitations Act
  2. Suspend LPAT limitation periods
  3. Suspension of financial penalties with respect to missed timelines for building inspections
  4. Provide daily public health information in multiple languages
  5. Formally call for the closure of dental practices so they can seek access to pandemic insurance funds.


I welcome the opportunity to discuss these ideas with you further.



MPP Mike Schreiner

Cc: Hon. Min. Christine Elliott, Ministry of Health <>

Hon. Min. Rod Phillips, Ministry of Finance, <>

Hon. Paul Calandra, <>



Concerning Bill 188


Speaker Ted Arnott

In a motion adopted unanimously by the House on March 25th, it was agreed that all party leaders and Independent members of the House are permitted to table their concerns regarding Bill 188 with the Speaker and to be delivered to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs to consider.

Please accept this letter in accordance with the motion dated March 25th 2020.

To        SCOFEA

There are four constituent parts of Bill 188 that require Legislative oversight and I request the Standing Committee to examine these in detail. They are: the government’s forecasts, the $4.8 billion in reserve funds, the $32 billion in authorized borrowings, and the impacts on personal privacy.

Currently the legislation as written and passed permits the government to access these funds/borrowings without any need to account for these expenditures or borrowings.

It is imperative that the government demonstrate its commitment to accountability and transparency. These funds/expenditures and borrowings must be utilized in a prudent manner and with the knowledge of the Legislature who agreed to the expedited passage of the Bill through unanimous consent.

The most practical manner that this can be achieved, being cognizant that the Assembly and its Committees may have little or no sittings days are thus:

  1. That all Standing Committees of the House be permitted to use video conferencing and be streamed online publicly while the House is adjourned/in recess;
  2. That whenever a Treasury Board authorization is issued to appropriate any portion of the reserve funds, all members of the SCOFEA and Independent members of the House are notified;
  3. That the Minister(s) and Ministry(s) officials appear before the SCOFEA to explain the purpose for accessing these reserve funds and that those purposes be examined by the committee;
  4. That the SCOFEA request a monthly report from the FAO regarding the reserve expenditures;
  5. That whenever some or all of the borrowings are executed, that the President of the Treasury Board and the Minister of Finance appear before the committee to report on the amounts borrowed, terms of the borrowings, the purpose of the borrowings, and that the FAO also be requested to appear before the committee to provide an analysis of the borrowings and their impacts on the Government's budgetary forecasts/plans enunciated in Bill 188;
  6. The House has instructed the Minister of Finance to appear before the SCOFEA regarding Bill 188, it is essential for the Committee to inquire and examine the revenue forecasts contained within Bill 188. Specifically, on how the Ministry determined that the forecasted GDP will remain constant in 2020/21 as in 2019/2020 although personal income taxes will drop, and corporate income and sales taxes reportedly will remain constant this year over last year;
  7. In addition, I request the FAO appear before the committee to: a) provide their analysis on these forecasts; and b) any such other analyses the Committee determines are appropriate;
  8. Lastly, it would be appropriate and I request that the Information and Privacy Commissioner attend SCOFEA and provide an analysis of the recent amendments under their jurisdiction contained in Bill 188.



Randy Hillier



Appendix C:
Submission of the Financial Accountability Office



Full submission available at:

Appendix D: Dissenting Opinion of the New Democratic Party Members of the Committee

Dissenting Opinion


What We Heard

The Government members of this committee may want to pat themselves on the back for finally getting around to listening to small business owners – three months after the pandemic started – but throughout this process the Official Opposition heard a different story. The discrepancies between the Government account and the testimony reinforce the opinion that the Ford Government response to the crisis, while better than nothing, has time and time again been a day late and a dollar short.


When this crisis began, Ontario’s business owners and the hard working people who power them were all told by the government that, if we wanted to beat this virus, they had to shut down and stay home. This meant putting their lives on hold and their livelihoods in jeopardy. But while workers and businesses did their part for Ontario, the government refused to do theirs. While businesses and advocacy groups like the Canadian Federal of Independent Business and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce were calling for rent relief, wage supports, and a moratorium on commercial evictions, the government instead chose to wait for others to act and take credit for the federal government’s action.


And despite the committee, businesses owners and workers are concerned about the costs of reopening and how they’re going to pay for PPE and the protections the need to keep themselves and their customers safe. They’re worried about problems accessing insurance. But increasingly they’re worried about how they’re going to deal with the extra debt that the government put them into with their loans and deferrals. This crisis has been one of the most difficult times in Ontario’s history. Hundreds of thousands of everyday families lost their jobs and business owners still don’t have a clear path back to normal.


Even though they went without income for three months landlords still expected the rent in full, insurance and utility companies still demanded that bills were paid, and when businesses went to the government for support they were met with silence. The committee majority may talk a lot about Ontario being open for business – but after months of inaction from the government – this crisis has meant the permanent closure of thousands of small businesses. Many more are on the verge of closing but still the government and their majority on this committee continue actively ignoring the concerns of businesses.


Reports and the testimony from the FAO make it clear that nearly 75% of the Government’s response comes in the form of tax deferrals, allocations committed prior to the start of the crisis, and the reversal of cuts made by the Ford Government in last year’s budget instead of actual dollars spent on providing relief that Ontarians need more than any other time in recent history.


Save Main Street

While the government and the committee majority may not have chosen to listen to businesses, the Official Opposition New Democrat Caucus has always been on the side of business owners and we’ve been fighting for what matters to them. That’s why, after consulting with business owners from every corner of the province the Official Opposition New Democrats released the Save Main Street plan. This five point plan provided concrete solutions to the concerns that Ontario businesses were raising – and unlike the government’s plan – was built directly on the suggestions of those in the business community.


  • A 75 per cent commercial rent subsidy up to $10,000 a month for three months
  • A utility payment freeze
  • A remote-work set up fund, which could help them with things like setting up an online retail operation, or buying laptops and software for staff
  • An auto insurance grace period for taxis and car-sharing drivers, established in partnership with the insurance industry and the Financial Services Regulatory Authority
  • A designated emergency fund for small businesses and entrepreneurs who have faced historic barriers to accessing traditional capital, as proposed by the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce.


The Committee heard during their consultation that many of the concerns Ontario’s small businesses are facing could be solved if the government chose to adopt these simple, concrete, solutions. We know that our economy will not go back to normal overnight. So it’s essential that the government to step up with the direct financial supports and services that businesses need today. We’re calling on the committee to ensure that that businesses have these supports in place for as long as the impacts of the pandemic are with us as well.



The NDP Official Opposition has four main recommendations

1. That the government take the advice of the Official Opposition and of business advocacy groups like the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and adopt the Ontario New Democrat Caucus’s Save Main Street plan

a. This includes working with business owners and land lords on a rent relief program that works for everyone – and doesn’t just lead to more debt and evictions like the current program

2. That the government release a set of clear guidelines for the distribution of pandemic pay for frontline workers – including a clear rational, and specific criteria for eligibility and timelines for delivery of fund from the government 

3. That the government immediately introduce specific strategies and new direct funding options to support the call from the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce as referenced by the Min of Finance

4. That the government provide clarification on current economic supports for Indigenous communities and reduce red tape for Indigenous business owners and communities who need





Appendix E: Dissenting Opinion of the Liberal Party Members of the Committee

The Ontario Liberal committee members would like to thank the Minister of Finance and the Financial Accountability Officer for making presentations to the committee.  We heard very different economic updates about the state of the Ontario economy during COVID-19 pandemic, and where it is forecasted to end up over the next few years. Below is a summary of our recommendations:




The Ontario Liberal caucus is calling on the provincial government to address this crisis by taking the following immediate action:


· Table a fiscal update before July 15th;


· The creation of a multi-year financing pay-back program for small and medium businesses to repay deferred taxes, with an option of forgiveness.


· There needs to be a centralized support hub for businesses to access services and information, to help limit the amount of bankruptcies and avoid permanent business closures;


· Replicate the Quebec government’s approach to CECRA, making the program more attractive to landlords, with the government taking on a larger share of the rent burden, reducing the landlord’s percentage from 25 to 12.5;


· The Government of Ontario needs to address these realities by providing relief, supports, and programs for students and youth, low-income Ontarians, and Ontarians with disabilities;


· The creation of the Ontario Emergency Municipal Support Fund with an available a minimum of $4 billion, cost-shared with the federal government, to provide urgent relief funding to municipalities facing financial hardship;


· Doubling the funding provided to qualifying municipalities in 2019 through the existing Provincial Gas Tax Program so that those communities with local public transit have the support needed to continue operating their systems without fare increases; and,


· Expediting provincial infrastructure funding to already-approved and viable projects that municipalities have previously budgeted for as a form of significant local and regional economic stimulus.





Fiscal Update

In governance, transparency is of the utmost importance, especially in democracies. Ontario has yet to see a fiscal update from the Ontario Government since March 25, a few weeks into this pandemic. On July 8th, the Government of Canada will give the country an economic update of the impact of the pandemic on the Canadian economy, but the Ontario government is still making economic decisions based on pre-pandemic projections. Premier Ford needs to provide a fiscal update before July 15th  as Ontario enters the final stages of reopening. Ontarians deserve to know the full economic impact of the shutdown. 

The Minister of Finance informed the committee that he plans to introduce a fiscal update by August 15th. That is too long of a wait to evaluate spending decisions during this crisis.  In his presentation to the committee, the province’s Financial Accountability Officer (FAO), indicated that the pandemic has pushed Ontario in a sharp recession projecting a 9% decline in real GDP, and a record $41 billion deficit: twice as large from the Government’s projections back in March.  The disparity between the FAO’s data and the province’s projections in March shows that now is the time for a fiscal update.

The FAO also stated that 2.2 million workers have been directly affected by the crisis.  Ontarians deserve to understand the economic effect on their communities, and should hear it from the Government’s Ministry of Finance. When the economy spirals in such turmoil, the books need to be open. Now is not the time to be silent. Ontarians’ fear about the health of the economy is growing and requires clear and direct communication from their government. Ontarians deserve answers on the economic impact of COVID-19 thus far on Ontario, and what it means for the future of the province. Specifically:


· How much does the provincial government provide Ontarians with direct new spending due to COVID actions?


· Are the existing supports just reversals to cuts from previous budgets?


· How much have we lost in tax revenue from business shutdowns and the loss of jobs?


· What is the Ford Government’s forecast for projecting a full economic recovery for Ontario?


Accurate fiscal information is necessary to evaluate program spending to determine who needs support and how to provide it best. From the sections below, it will become clear that government support will need to come from various mechanisms to support Ontario’s economic recovery. 


Business Supports


The Ontario Liberal Caucus has held over 20 consultations across different sectors in the province regarding reopening and recovering the economy. The vast majority of Ontario businesses need more from their government. 


Organizations are having trouble accessing PPE and supplies to protect employees and consumers. In addition to supply chain issues, businesses are also facing increased costs to implement health and safety protocols with no help from the government.  Committee members heard that small businesses needed assistance in covering the costs of reopening, such as plexiglass for restaurants.


Many businesses in other provinces and across the continent are applying a COIVD-19 surcharge on customers to make up these costs. As we enter stage two of reopening our economy and promoting economic recovery, we cannot allow businesses to take on these costs alone. A COVID-19 surcharge will affect consumer spending and hurt enterprises even further. Businesses need support for these new costs.


We also heard repeatedly that reopening guidelines are very vague, which is causing interpretation issues between government and local public health units, affecting the ability of people to re-open their businesses. Businesses need clarity and time to prepare, and they are hesitant to invest in costly adaptations for unclear public health measures that are required. 


As businesses shift to online services and meetings, this is disproportionately impacting many Ontarians in rural communities where there is a lack of broadband infrastructure for high-speed internet and use of Xplorenet. Information, video conferencing and the ability for purchasing from suppliers are all examples of the difficulties many rural businesses are facing. Instead of travelling to urban communities to meet with stakeholders, the many business owners who are doing the right thing by staying in their homes are seeing their businesses' local economy suffer.   


Many small businesses are falling through the cracks of federal programs and need the province to fill in the gap. New and seasonal companies who do not have the revenues from the year prior do not qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). Those with contractors, instead of payroll employees, also do not qualify for it. The wage subsidy also needs to be extended so employers can continue to afford operations.


There needs to be a centralized support hub for businesses to access services and information, to help limit the amount of bankruptcies and avoid permanent business closures.


Commercial Rent


Ontario’s ban on commercial evictions may help small businesses in the immediate term but not in the long run. The Government is not doing much to support commercial landlords either. 


Consider small-business owner Courtney Anderson’s case: Anderson told the CBC that he has put every resource he has into his Caribbean restaurant in Ajax. Coincidentally, in the same riding of the Finance Minister. His restaurant is struggling since the closure with sales reducing to fraction from when it opened. Although his landlord applied for the CECRA, he still needs to pay 25% of the rent. To cover the cost for April, May and June, he needed to borrow from his family. When it comes to the months ahead, he says, “I don’t know if I’m gonna (going to) make it. I’m trying.” Anderson’s story is a carbon copy of many small-businesses in the province.


We heard in committee that the CECRA program is voluntary, and the feedback the some of the committee members heard from landlords, is that they are reluctant to participate in the program.  From the perspective of a commercial landlord, Premier Ford's Government could do much more for them. The provincial government needs to step up and do their part as the federal government has. Toronto landlord Susan Chiu, who has five commercial properties and 30 tenants qualified for the CECRA, also spoke with the CBC.  She is baffled by the eviction ban. "There's no one to move in. It doesn't make business sense for a landlord to evict a tenant."  Chiu still fears for her losses. The consensus opinion of building owners is that it is not fair for them to take on the losses of their tenants. 


Benjamin Shinewald, The President of Building Owners and Managers of Canada, deemed the best course of action is providing direct rent relief to tenants and let them come to terms with their landlords. Many of the small businesses whose landlords have not applied for CECRA certainly feel the same way. CECRA is a federal program, but when it comes to possible future expansions, Ontario should work with the federal government to restructure the program based on these recommendations so we can have an effective solution.


Many landlords are also weighing whether lower rent is better than a vacancy. In an attempt to help save businesses and encourage landlords, the Quebec Government provides a more substantial contribution towards CECRA to assume more of the landlords' cost. Landlords of CECRA eligible Quebec properties see a reduction of 50% in the amount typically forgone by CECRA, with the Quebec government taking on a larger share of the rent burden, reducing the landlord’s percentage from 25 to 12.5. Meanwhile, Ontario has done nothing to step up to the plate.


The current CECRA program is not working. With data as of June 8, the federal government has paid out 2% of the budgeted $3 billion for this program. CECRA does not entice landlords, and this leaves small businesses behind. Minister Phillips stood before the committee, affirming that the government is taking action to support businesses, but favouring a failing program does not help Ontario's business owners and commercial landlords. 


Deferred Business Taxes 


Small businesses are facing unprecedented losses through no fault of their own. Most small and medium enterprises (SMEs) do not have access to the same financial instruments as large corporations and have a reduced capacity to weather this economic storm.  We heard in committee that the Ontario’s Action Plan was intended to defer provincial taxes for a period of five months, to improve businesses cash flow.  It was pointed out to Minister Phillips that business belief that in six months this will compromise their ability recover as an economy.


The road to economic recovery will take many months and years, as the pandemic will have extended impacts on consumer behaviour and purchasing power which is particularly true for SMEs in the tourism and culture industries, which depend on seasonal revenues and may not be able to resume normal operations until we have a vaccine and it is safe for Ontarians to gather in large numbers.


To prevent permanent closures, further job losses, and to allow for businesses to fully recover, an effective tax relief plan is needed. Companies will not be able to pay deferred taxes in addition to accumulated debt in a matter of weeks and months. Our province needs to structure a multi-year repayment plan for deferred taxes, with an option for forgiveness of a portion which will help keep businesses from permanently closing and help build a climate of investment that will accelerate Ontario’s economic recovery. 


Low Income Ontarians, Youth, and those with Disabilities


In the Interim Report, the Committee heard that the hardest-hit sectors of the economy are public-facing, as services, retail, and hospitality sectors closed their doors as Ontarians stayed home to stop the spread of COVID-19. 


These public-facing industries employ women, new Canadians, and youth in proportionally higher numbers. In Committee the FAO confirmed in their presentation that these public-facing sectors of the economy have been the hardest hit. Many of the jobs in these industries are part-time and pay low hourly wages. They are also slower to resume operations as limits on social gatherings continue into the summer, impacting tourism and cultural events. 


Many high school and post-secondary students seek summer employment in seasonal tourism and cultural events. For the second time in its 142 year history, the Canadian National Exhibition has cancelled the annual festivities that attract visitors to the city and provides employment opportunities for hundreds of Ontario's youth. Across the province, summer jobs are disappearing for youth, and many are unlikely to return this year.


At the same time, the cost of living is going up for many during the COVID-19 pandemic—families with children no longer can rely on school or childcare. Low-cost summer recreational activities, including local programming, are unable to continue as planned or face limited enrollment to allow for physical distancing. Families face new costs to keep their children educated and entertained at home. 


Ontarians with disabilities also face increased costs. Food prices increase as the pandemic impacts supply chains of fresh meat and produce, making it more expensive to eat nutritious food. Immuno-compromised Ontarians may no longer be able to rely on public transit safely or do their shopping. For months, the medications that Ontarians require have been dispensed in 30-day supplies, tripling regular dispensing fees. These impacts add up to people on low and fixed-incomes.


While the government has taken some positive actions, including a moratorium on residential evictions, small payments for families with children, and income support from the federal government, in many cases, they are insufficient to meet peoples' needs. 


The Government of Ontario needs to address these realities by providing relief, support, and programs for students, youth, low-income Ontarians, and Ontarians with disabilities. 


The Government of Ontario, acknowledging that summer employment opportunities have disappeared for thousands of young Ontarians, should reverse their cuts to OSAP to prevent students from dropping out because they cannot afford tuition. Ontario's future needs help now. The province should join the federal government in doubling student grants, and forgive the grants that were converted into loans for many Ontario students. The government should also provide training programs for youth to address the lost workplace skills and experience due to summer unemployment. 


The government should also move to provide rent relief directly to families at risk of eviction after the pandemic subsides. Direct financial support will assist families with accumulated debt to make ends meet and prevent a wave of evictions in the fall. 


Finally, the government should increase financial support for Ontarians in the ODSP program by making additional COVID-19 funds universal and automatic for all enrolled in the program. The government should not claw back CERB benefits from those on ODSP who have lost their supplementary income sources. Ontarians with disabilities face unique financial challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, and should not be treated as an expendable afterthought by their government. All Ontarians deserve to be supported with dignity as we face these unprecedented challenges.



The COVID-19 crisis has dealt a devastating blow to Ontario municipalities. The combination of increased expenses and a dramatic reduction in revenues leads to a crisis that threatens to stifle economic recovery and leads to social discord.


With millions of Ontarians remaining at home over the first three months of the COVID-19 crisis, municipalities across the province have seen a significant revenue decline. Ontario's Large Urban Mayors have projected a shortfall in transit revenue of over $400 million from April to June.  So, the 100 million of direct support to municipalities, that the Minister informed the committee about, will not come close to covering the revenue shortfalls.


While revenue from room rentals and fees for adult and youth programming has all but evaporated, the costs of maintaining and operating community centres, arenas and pools are mostly unavoidable. With millions of residents off work, some are unable to pay property taxes and utility bills in a timely fashion. As like most other employers, municipalities also face increased costs related to physical distancing measures, personal protective equipment, and public health expenses. All told, municipalities across Ontario are in deep financial trouble.


According to an analysis published by RBC, Ontario municipalities face a revenue shortfall from user fees and property taxes approaching $5 billion. Unlike the federal and provincial governments, municipalities cannot run operating deficits, which leaves them with bleak options: draconian spending cuts, huge increases to property taxes, or both.


The City of Toronto is projecting the possibility of a $1.5 billion shortfall as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Without service cuts, this would require a 47% increase to property taxes. To avoid significant tax and user fee increases, layoffs and cuts to services that Ontarians rely on daily to maintain their high quality of life, the province needs to assist its municipalities. 




With millions of Ontarians remaining home to comply with public health guidance, transit agencies have seen an unprecedented drop in ridership and a sharp drop in transit fares that fund the majority of their operating costs. In a memo to their city council, Ottawa's OC Transpo sees 70-90% lower levels than usual.


The Minister admitted to committee that we are a long way from restoring consumer confidence, even with a national approach to contact tracing.  Even if a second wave event does not occur, a lack of adequate support will force transit agencies to reduce service, increase fares and potentially lay off employees.  As we contemplate Ontario's economic recovery, we cannot overlook the value of public transit.


Here is what Toronto Mayor John Tory had to say to reporters back in May:


“Increased transfers from provinces for all sizes of cities, or targeted funding for public-transit operations for larger ones could help. Transit funding may also speed economic recovery if it subsidizes more trips with fewer passengers per trip. Making it safe for people to stay on the train rather than drive would also alleviate pressures on other infrastructure and mitigate carbon emissions.”



Appendix F: Dissenting Opinion of the Green Party Member of the Committee

COVID-19 brought Ontario and the world to a standstill. Small businesses were forced to shutter for months. Families were kept apart from their loved ones. Frontline workers were left with no choice but to wade into danger every day.


Despite the hardships it has caused, the Green Party of Ontario believes the Province responded appropriately by putting our economy and lives as we knew them on pause.


What we have seen during this time is that this legislature and this province can work together to put people first.


This crisis has reminded us what is possible when we count on each other, respect science, and cooperate on creative solutions.


While the Government has provided some limited monetary support to people and businesses, it has, unfortunately, come up short in providing the substantial and meaningful relief needed to provide care for people, especially our elders, and to ensure our economy can rebuild in a way that builds a bridge to a greener, healthier, and more caring Ontario.


For example, the government boasted of providing a $17 billion pandemic response package of which $7 billion was in direct funding and $10 billion in tax deferrals. The Financial Accountability Officer, however, made it clear to the Committee that only $4.5 billion was new, direct funding.


On March 20, the Green Party of Ontario encouraged the government to implement a number of recommendations to help the people and businesses of Ontario weather this storm.


Unfortunately, few recommendations were implemented. And if they were, they were done so after a significant delay, leading to increased anxiety and in some cases personal and commercial financial distress.


The Green Party of Ontario would encourage the Government to use the contingency and reserve funds set aside in the March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update to immediately provide the following:


Basic Income

The Covid-19 pandemic has laid to bare the inadequacy of our province’s social security nets. Ontario must work with the Federal government, to embrace a permanent basic income program to guarantee no one falls through the cracks and worries about putting food on the table when an emergency hits.


Support for Small Businesses, Non-Profits and Charities

The Government has failed to provide adequate support to small businesses, non-profits and charities. Ontario must stand up for local independent businesses, non-profits and charities by giving them access to funding to reopen safely and by providing protections against commercial evictions so they can begin once again to create jobs and support vibrant communities. The Finance Minister should report back to the committee on the number of small businesses who have accessed the CECRA program and how much money the government has spent on the program.


Reverse Cuts to Public Health

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of a fully funded and effective public health system. This government should reverse all cuts to public health made in the 2019 budget and provide 100 per cent provincial funding to public health units.


Provide Funding for Municipalities

Due to the downloading of many costs from the Province to municipalities, municipalities require immediate funding to ensure they are solvent and able to provide necessary social and infrastructure support. The Green Party of Ontario’s funding recommendations include:


1. Providing a $350 million operating grant to cover the operating costs of municipal-run long-term care homes;

2. Restoring provincial funding for community housing;

3. Increasing emergency stabilization funding for shelters, food banks and other non-profits;

4. Fast-tracking funding for already approved infrastructure projects;

5. Creating a multi-billion dollar active transportation fund for municipalities;

6. Restoring the previous funding formula for child care;

7. Funding 50% of local transit operating costs for municipalities;

8. Doubling the municipalities’ share of gas tax funding; and

9. Allowing municipalities to implement new revenue generating tools, including road tolls, parking levies and land value taxation


The Government’s March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update did not adequately anticipate the financial devastation that the people of this Province would be enduring. This pandemic has cost us dearly and governments should not pin those costs on people and the planet.


Our economic recovery should not come at the expense of our communities - it should restore and empower them.



[1] The members of the OJRC are: Minister of Finance (Chair); Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade; President of the Treasury Board; Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks; Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing; Minister of Transportation; Deputy Premier and Minister of Health; Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs; Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry; Minister of Infrastructure; Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries; Minister of Government and Consumer Services; Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development; and the Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction.

[3] See Ontario Health Coalition Report “Caring in Crisis: Ontario’s Long-Term Care PSW Shortage”

[4] See comments by Professor Trevor Tombe, Associate Professor University of Calgary

[5] See comments from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business to Global News