The Healthcare Highlights and Lowlights of Ontario's 2022 Budget
/ Author: CLAC Staff
/ Categories: News, Sectors, Health Care /
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The Healthcare Highlights and Lowlights of Ontario's 2022 Budget

CLAC breaks down the highs and lows of Ontario's 2022 budget for the province's healthcare sector

Yesterday, Ontario’s PC Party released their 2022 budget, which will serve as the framework for their platform in the provincial election that will be called next week. The budget explains what the party has accomplished for the people of Ontario and focuses their plan to “Get It Done” on five key themes:

A Plan to Stay Open: A promise to hire more nurses, allowing more seniors to stay in their own homes, and producing more vaccines and PPE right here in Ontario. The budget plan invests $198.6 billion in key initiatives for Ontarians.

Rebuilding Ontario’s Economy: New manufacturing jobs with good pay, more support for small businesses, and a mining plan that will finally open the Ring of Fire.

Working for Workers: Encouraging apprenticeships, introducing more skilled trades jobs, allowing colleges to grant three-year degrees, and increasing the minimum wage.

Building Highways and Key Infrastructure: Finally building the Highway 413 and Brantford bypass, investing in the 401 East and Highway 7 expansions, and expanding GO service in London and Bowmanville.

Keeping Costs Down: Lowering gas taxes, getting rid of license plate stickers, and removing tolls on Highways 412 and 418.


Below you will find a breakdown of some of the hits and misses as they relate to our healthcare members. As always, if you have questions about these or any other developments, please contact your CLAC representative.

Permanent Wage Increase for PSWs – Hit and Miss

The permanent $3 wage increase for personal support workers (PSWs) and developmental support workers (DSWs) that was announced in March is very positive. However, it can be considered a hit and a miss because it does not comprehensively address wages in the sector.

CLAC has long advocated that we need to extend these wage increases to all other healthcare workers who provide hands-on care in hospitals, homecare, and long term care. Bill 124 also needs to be repealed so that public sector workers do not continue to fall behind as inflation skyrockets.

Homecare and Beds, Beds, Beds – Hit and Miss

The 2022 budget promises to invest an additional $1 billion over the next three years to further expand homecare. This funding will benefit the nearly 700,000 families who rely on homecare every year, preventing unnecessary hospital and long term care admissions and shortening hospital stays. The funding will be applied to expanded care hours and the attraction and training of new workers.

What remains to be seen is whether compensation for homecare workers, which remains below the rates paid to other healthcare workers, will experience a boost. CLAC has called on this change to counteract rapid inflation and major gas price hikes, two issues that disproportionately affect homecare workers.

The province will invest in 30,000 long term care beds by 2028 through the construction of new facilities and by providing much-needed renovations to older facilities. Older homes, most of which are owned by for-profit operators, were hit particularly hard during the pandemic.

Healthcare Staffing Task Force and Training Incentives – Hit
 
As we move through the second full year of the pandemic, staffing has continued to be in a very precarious state. Omicron has challenged healthcare settings with its ability to spread quickly and its lack of regard for vaccination. As front-line workers know all too well, the staffing problem in long term care was in a crisis state for years and has been exacerbated by the pandemic. The investments being made to attract, train, and retain healthcare workers will be very important in addressing this challenge.

Some of the notable budget points that address this issue include:

- Investing $142 million to launch the new “Learn and Stay” grant. The program will start with $81 million over the next two years to expand the Community Commitment Program for Nurses (CCPN), which each year allows up to 1,500 nursing graduates to receive full tuition reimbursement in exchange for committing to practice for two years in an underserved community. Starting in spring 2023, applications will open for up to 2,500 eligible students who commit to work in their region in an underserved community for up to two years after graduating. Students will be eligible to receive full, upfront funding for tuition, books, and other direct educational costs.
- Investing $764 million over two years to provide Ontario’s nurses with a retention incentive of up to $5,000 per person.
- Training more doctors through the largest expansion of medical school education in over 10 years by adding 160 undergraduate seats and 295 postgraduate positions over the next five years.

WSIB Expansion – Miss   

Retirement home workers are not adequately protected from the financial impact of workplace illness or injury. Employers continue to push back on this important change while questioning why people do not want to work in the sector.

We rely on these healthcare heroes to care for our seniors and yet they are left vulnerable, without access to adequate benefits if they are hurt or injured on the job. The 2022 budget is silent on this important matter, but CLAC will continue to strongly advocate for this important change.

Money in Your Pocket – Hit and Miss

The budget works to address affordability through several measures:

- Cutting the gasoline tax by 5.7 cents per litre and the fuel tax by 5.3 cents per litre for six months starting July 1, 2022.
- $300 on average in additional tax relief in 2022 for more than one million low-income workers through the proposed Low-income Individuals and Families Tax (LIFT) Credit enhancement.
- The budget also re-announced the elimination of license plate stickers. Over the past month, CLAC members who drive vehicles in Ontario received cheques for hundreds of dollars. While the tax changes are beneficial, the removal of the sticker fees reduces revenues by over $1 billion annually for an item that had not been controversial. This is a partial miss because we believe that the funds would have been better allocated to addressing the massive wage issues in healthcare.

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