Provincial budget on hold due to COVID-19 economic impact

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips. (Photo courtesy of Twitter @RodPhillips01)

The province of Ontario will not be releasing its 2020 budget next week as planned, as the Ministry of Finance comes to grips with the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

Ontario Minister of Finance┬áRod Phillips said on Monday that instead of a full budget, he will be releasing an economic and fiscal update on March 25, which will be based on the province’s best understanding of the current economic situation.

“This update will include a realistic one-year outlook based on current economic projections. It will provide certainty to hospitals, schools, municipalities, and other partners for the year to come,” Phillips said in a statement. “Our approach will include increased resources for our healthcare system, direct support for people, and action to protect jobs and our economy. This is a responsible course that maintains confidence and stability, while providing the flexibility to respond quickly to changing events.”

Phillips said he has been in regular meetings with other ministers who have financial responsibilities as part of a committee. These ministers have been in frequent contact with business leaders, unions and financial institutions in an effort to ensure the government has an open line of communication to address COVID-19’s economic impact on the economy.

“Our government will make additional resources available to ensure Ontario’s health-care system is able to respond to any scenario,” said Phillips. “Our health-care professionals have our backs. They can be confident their government has theirs.”

The minister said the province has “more fiscal flexibility” to respond to global events like the COVID-19 pandemic, and is “well-positioned to weather the challenges ahead.”

Ontario has seen 177 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since January. To date, five of those infected with the virus have fully recovered.

More than 8,460 people have been tested for coronavirus across the province. Ontario Public Health has indicated it is awaiting results of 1,316 tests.