Ontario needs a budget that invests in people and public services

Ontario 2021 Pre-Budget Submission Prepared for the Minister of Finance 

Social Planning Toronto calls on the Government of Ontario to make tangible investments in the 2021 Ontario Budget that level the playing field for those most negatively affected by the pandemic – especially seniors, women, Indigenous people, racialized and Black communities, and people with disabilities. 

Residents of our great province deserve a budget that supports people, especially underserved communities and low-income households, to stay safe and healthy. We envision a budget that creates jobs through inclusive, local economic development. This time of unprecedented challenges requires a provincial budget that makes Ontario, and its local municipalities, more affordable, sustainable, and ready to recover.

To kickstart the pandemic recovery and lay the foundation to build back better, Social Planning Toronto recommends the 2021 Ontario Budget to:

  1. Support municipal finances
    • Provide sufficient and stable funding to local governments to pay for municipal delivery of provincial programs, such as child care, public health, and Ontario Works.
    • Confirm and deliver pandemic relief funding promised to municipalities under the Safe Start Agreement. The City of Toronto is awaiting funding confirmation to help offset its $856 million shortfall in the 2021 operating budget.
    • Increase authorities of local governments to access new revenue sources, such as a portion of the Provincial Sales Tax or Provincial Income Tax, to further offset municipal budgetary shortfalls and adequately finance much needed local services.
  2. Protect tenants and increase the supply of adequate housing
    • Increase the supply of adequate, affordable, and accessible housing, including social and supportive housing. This includes fully funding the City of Toronto’s proposed 1,200 new supportive housing units.
    • Develop and implement an eviction prevention strategy to protect tenants. Key components must include targeted rent relief and support, rent control, and strong prevention and enforcement measures to stop illegal evictions.
    • Implement policies and services that promote housing as a universal human right and social good. Realizing a rights-based approach to housing is crucial to addressing the housing crisis.
  3. Adequately finance and improve access to essential public services and programs
    • Ensure that essential public services, such as childcare and transit, are affordable for residents of all income levels, particularly those with low income. Reducing the cost of living and helping people become more financially stable would help people spend money in their local economies – essentially supporting Ontario’s economic recovery. 
    • Raise social assistance benefits to rates above the low-income measure. Benefit rates have been stagnant for decades and social assistance recipients experience deeper poverty than a generation ago. 
    • Review, in partnership with communities, Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program to consider how supports and programs can be improved to accommodate people’s varying needs and life circumstances. 
  4. Support workers
    • Legislate seven (7) permanent, employer-paid sick days for all workers and an additional fourteen (14) days during public health outbreaks. Access to paid leave can ensure the safety of workers, their colleagues, and the community at large. 
    • Raise the minimum wage to $15 for all workers in 2021, and increase it annually to cover the rising costs of living. 
  5. Invest in the nonprofit sector
    • Immediately establish and distribute a sector stabilization fund. During the first wave of the pandemic, the Ontario Nonprofit Network calculated that $680 million was needed to stabilize Ontario nonprofits. Amidst the second wave, prolonged lockdowns, and economic downturn, the sector's financial security worsens while community needs rise.
    • Increase and stabilize multi-year funding to nonprofits that serve those most affected by poverty. Multi-year funding agreements between the Province and nonprofits must reflect real costs of running a nonprofit, including coverage of health benefits and pension premiums for staff, annual inflationary increases, any changes to statutory requirements such as new employment standards, and indirect costs, like research and innovation.

The pandemic has made clear the stark inequalities that existed long before COVID-19. The 2021 Ontario budget provides an opportunity to reduce these disparities. We urge the Government of Ontario to fully utilize the resources at its disposal to make real and significant investments in this year’s budget.

Social Planning Toronto is a nonprofit community organization dedicated to community development and social justice. Our organization conducts social research, policy analysis, community capacity building, and resident engagement to reduce inequities. We strive for a city where everyone can fully participate in their communities and access opportunities. 

For more information, please contact Caryl Arundel, Interim Executive Director at Social Planning Toronto at [email protected].


Photo by DXR, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 / Cropped from original


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