The Ontario government released the budget for the next three years on Thursday.

Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller says the focus of it is on the COVID-19 pandemic. Finance Minister Rod Phillips outlined the themes for the next few years: protect, support, and recover. “As he pointed out, it’s 90-percent protect and support while we’re in the midst of COVID,” Miller tells the MyMuskokaNow.com newsroom.

There is a section in the budget titled “2021 – Year of the Ontario Staycation.” The government is setting aside $150 million for that and is mulling over a 20-percent tax credit for “eligible Ontario tourism expenses.” Miller says he was happy to see that included. “For our area, that’s very significant,” he adds.

“Another significant part of the budget is the expansion on the investment in broadband,” notes Miller, with $1 billion being invested into improving broadband and cellular access in the province. “COVID has made it clear that this is very much needed for people working from home,” Miller says.

Miller also touts the “substantial” spending in the health care sector with nearly $600 million going to hospitals to address operational changes that have happened over the past few months. Also in the budget is the expansion of care in long-term cares home from around 2-and-a-half hours per day to four. “It will take four years to implement that mainly because of the shortage of staff,” Miller adds. “There have been ongoing changes throughout the past number of months,” he says. “The biggest change is from the Commission of Inquiry is the change to increase the amount of direct care to loved ones.”

He specifically credits the work long-term cares staff have done in Parry Sound-Muskoka.

“We have had no deaths,” he said.

Miller acknowledges that many other parts of the province have not been as lucky.

With spending greatly increased in this budget, Miller says it does make him nervous.

“The last thing I like to see are deficits,” he said, but notes that more is expected in March on how the government will ensure the spending doesn’t hurt them in the long run.

–Story written by Mathew Reisler