October 26, 2020, Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Finance, Rod Phillips, announced that Ontario will release its 2020 Budget next Thursday, November 5th. The upcoming Budget will act as the next phase of Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, the fiscal update released in March in lieu of the traditional budget.
Premier Ford and Minister Phillips were joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott. Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott responded to questions from media regarding the ongoing provincial response to COVID-19.
2020 Provincial Budget
This afternoon, Premier Ford and Minister Phillips announced that Ontario’s 2020 Budget will be released next Thursday, November 5th. The 2020 Budget will build on Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, and will provide a three-year economic outlook based on three plausible economic scenarios.
The Budget has been developed with input from labour organizations, not-for-profits, and religious and cultural organizations, as well as with Ontario’s municipal and federal government partnerships in mind. It will include additional support measures for families, workers, vulnerable people, seniors and employers.
The government will return to the traditional budget calendar in 2021 by releasing another multi-year update in March. The March 2021 Budget will outline a plan to return Ontario to a “fiscally sustainable” path, according to Minister Phillips.
Questions from Media – Response to COVID-19
Moving Additional Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Regions to Modified Stage 2
Premier Ford was asked about a letter sent to him by Halton Region mayors over the weekend, which stated the mayors’ opposition to any further tightening of COVID-19 restrictions in the region. According to the letter, rolling Halton back to modified Stage 2 is a “blanket approach… with no explanation” that would hurt the local economy and impact buy-in from residents.
In response to questions about the letter and his rationale for not yet announcing whether additional regions would be moved back to modified Stage 2, Premier Ford said that the situation is complicated by the lack of consensus on what should be done, particularly in Halton. He added that the government is considering the input of health officials, local politicians, and small business owners.
Minister Elliott added that the government considers a number of factors when deciding whether to return a region to modified Stage 2, including the number of daily cases, testing and tracing capacity, availability of intensive care unit beds and ventilators, and the perspective of the local medical officer of health. She noted that this criteria will be used to make a decision regarding Halton Region, as well as other areas of concern where case numbers are rising.
Case Numbers and Effectiveness of Modified Stage 2
On Sunday, the province reported a record 1,042 new cases of COVID-19. When asked about this, Minister Elliott said that the current case numbers are reflective of gatherings that occurred over the Thanksgiving weekend.
When asked about whether modified Stage 2 measures are effective at lowering case counts in the hotspots of Toronto, Ottawa, Peel and York regions, Minister Elliott replied that Ottawa appears to be doing well. It is too soon to say whether any of the regions in modified Stage 2 will be permitted to return to Stage 3 after the initial 28-day period.
MPP Sam Oosterhoff
Premier Ford was also asked for comment on a large group photo featuring MPP Sam Oosterhoff, in which no one is social distancing or wearing a mask. Premier Ford noted that MPP Oosterhoff apologized for failing to adhere to public health guidelines. The Premier added that he maintains confidence in MPP Oosterhoff and will not remove him as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education.