The Ontario 2021 Budget has released with the focus of keeping Ontarians safe and protecting the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Budget 2021 spending will be used to support families and workers in Ontario by protecting jobs and providing small businesses with necessary relief.
The Ontario 2021 Budget came in at a total spending of $23.3 billion.
In order to build a solid foundation for economic growth when Ontario emerges from the pandemic, the provincial government is creating business support programs directed towards small businesses and retaining/hiring workers.
Ontario COVID-19 Small Business Support Programs
Small businesses are the backbone of the Ontario economy and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has put a massive halt to many of their cashflows. With many small businesses having to adapt to fully online marketplaces and compete with large internet resellers such as Amazon or Walmart, the Ontario government has created new programs like Digital Main Street to help give local businesses the support they need, as well as the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, which providesup to $20k in grant funding. Ontario Budget 2021 commits to:
- Doubling the Ontario Small Business Support Grant to deliver an estimated $3.4B to ~120,000 small businesses in Ontario. The Province launched the Ontario Small Business Support Grant in January 2021, which provides a minimum of $10,000 and a maximum of $20,000 to help eligible small businesses. Previous recipients of the Ontario Small Business Support Grant will automatically be entitled to a second payment in an amount equal to the first payment they received.
- An additional $10 million for the Digital Main Street program in 2021–22 to help more small businesses achieve a digital transformation and serve customers effectively online. The program will continue to provide digital transformation grants of $1,000 to $5,000, an online learning platform, training programs, and Digital Service Squads offering technical support to small business owners.
- Helping eligible small businesses with the unexpected costs of PPE with one‐time grants of up to $1,000 through Ontario’s Main Street Relief Grant.
- Partnering with the federal government to provide $976 million in urgent rent relief through the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program for small businesses. In addition, the government has extended the temporary ban on commercial evictions for those business tenants that are approved for the federal Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS).
- Providing property tax and energy cost rebates to help eligible businesses in the Control, Lockdown, or Shutdown regions (or previously in Modified Stage 2 regions).
- $8 million for the COVID‐19 Energy Assistance Program for Small Business to support businesses struggling with bill payments as a result of the COVID‐19 pandemic.
- $320 million in additional relief in 2020–21 through off‐peak electricity pricing, 24 hours a day, for eligible residential, farm, and small business customers during periods of provincial restrictions from March 24, 2020 to May 31, 2020, and January 1, 2021 to February 22, 2021.
Invest Ontario Fund
Ontario Budget 2021 pledges $400 million over four years to create the Invest Ontario Fund, which will support Invest Ontario and encourage investments in the key sectors of advanced manufacturing, technology, and life sciences.
- This agency will help to identify investments in high‐value projects, and rely upon a sophisticated evaluation process to inform its assessments and project selections.
- The agency will provide expertise and responsive and customizable investor services to support investment opportunities, including available financial assistance, talent support, advisory supports, and concierge services.
Skills Training Programs
By developing in-demand skills in Ontario’s workforce with new hiring and training programs, we can help ensure jobs are protected and growing after the pandemic.
A breakdown of the new programs announced under Ontario Budget 2021 can be found below:
- A new Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit for 2021 will provide up to $2,000 per recipient toward 50% of eligible expenses, for a total of an estimated $260 million in support to about 230,000 people in 2021.
- Ontario is investing a total of $288.2 million in 2021–22 in its Skilled Trades Strategy, which includes the following enhancements:
- $39.6 million over three years to expand the Specialist High Skills Major program. Building off an investment of $42.4 million in 2020–21, this will result in approximately 75 new programs that provide more opportunities for students to gain job‐ready skills and explore opportunities in the skilled trades.
- $3 million over three years in a new pilot bursary program for hands‐on learning in the skilled trades.
- Employment Training and Supports Programs will receive an additional $614.3 million during 2020–21 and 2021–22 will provide targeted employment and training supports. This includes up to:
- $85.0 million to support the Skills Development Fund to help training and employment organizations assist workers during the province’s economic recovery.
- $117.3 million to assist women, racialized individuals, Indigenous peoples, youth, and people with disabilities who are facing the highest rates of unemployment during the pandemic.
- $157.2 million to provide workers in the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic — including the hospitality and tourism sectors — with career counselling and urgent training to find new careers and good jobs.
- $60.8 million to upgrade and expand high‐speed internet and other digital infrastructure so community organizations, training providers, and colleges can provide employment and training services remotely to workers in every corner of the province, including rural, remote, and Northern regions. This involves programs such as the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF).
- $194 million to further support Ontario workers with additional employment and training programs and services that are responsive to the province’s economic recovery.
- Ontario’s planned investments over the next 10 years total $145.4 billion, including $16.9 billion in 2021–22. Ontario has created programs like the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) to help rural regions get connected to the internet.
Due to the nature of the virus, certain industries have been highly affected. The provincial government is aware that the current support programs are not enough for these sectors, and have introduced additional funding programs limited to specific industries.
Support for Tourism, Hospitality, Culture & Sports Sectors
Over the next three years, $400 million will be invested into new initiatives to support the tourism, hospitality, culture & sports sectors. This includes:
- $100 million initiative for 2021–22 to help tourism operators, anchor businesses, and attractions recover from the impacts of COVID‐19.
- $150 million to introduce legislation for a tax credit to encourage residents to explore Ontario when public health experts advise that it is safe to travel.
- $15 million for the Regional Tourism Organizations (RTOs) in 2021–22 to help stabilize and support the tourism sector’s efforts to attract domestic and international visitors when it is safe to do so.
- $10 million in 2021–22 to support Ontario arts and culture industry to assist with significant costs incurred when preparing for activities and events that could not go forward in 2020–21.
- $3.9 million over three years to enhance the provincial park experience by using technology to better connect the people of Ontario.
- $1.3 million for eligible Commercial Outpost Camps and hunting and fishing outfitters for relief from certain rents and fees.
- $200 million to provide infrastructure funding to larger, strategic projects and to sports facilities through the newly established Strategic Priorities and Infrastructure Fund.
Support for the Agri-food Sector
- $10 million in 2021–22 for a one‐year extension to the Enhanced Agri‐food Workplace Protection Program announced in June 2020 to support the implementation of measures to prevent and control COVID‐19 and to address unforeseen worker health and safety issues.
- $5 million in 2021–22 for a one‐year extension of AgriRecovery initiatives, including those related to livestock processing capacity, such as beef and pork set-aside programs.
- One‐time $10 million grant in 2021 to help wineries and cideries impacted by lockdown measures, and to help ensure that agricultural production and local jobs are maintained in Ontario’s rural communities.
- $1.2 million in 2021-2022 towards the Small Distillery Support Program to help small distillers recover from the impacts of the COVID‐19 pandemic.
- Funding extensions to 2022–23 for the following programs:
- VQA Wine Support Program ($7.5 million)
- Small Cidery ($1.8 million) and Small Distillery Support Programs ($0.8 million)
- Marketing, Tourism and Export Development; Performance Measurement and Research and Innovation Development Initiatives ($5.3 million)
Support for the Automotive Sector
- $56.4 million over the next four years to create the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network (OVIN). OVIN will build on the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN), accelerating the development of next generation electric, connected, and autonomous vehicle and mobility technologies, as well as supporting Ontario’s role as the manufacturing hub of Canada.
- $1 million in 2021–22 to support enhancements to the Ontario Made program to encourage participation and build awareness and recognition among consumers of Ontario‐made products.
Support for the Life Sciences & Healthcare Sectors
- $500 million to support high‐value research undertaken in universities, colleges, and academic hospitals.
- Ontario is proposing to temporarily double the tax credit rate from 10 per cent to 20 per cent for eligible expenditures on assets that become available for use in the period beginning on March 24, 2021 and ending before January 1, 2023. Doubling the tax credit rate would double the available tax credit support for regional investment from a maximum of $45,000 to a maximum of $90,000 in a year.
- $5 million over the next two years for the new Ontario Junior Exploration Program. Through the program, junior mining companies can apply for funding to cover eligible costs of up to $200,000 per mineral exploration or development project.
- An additional $50 million over the next two years will be allocated to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation: NOHFC to support investments in infrastructure, culture, economic development, and training.
Municipal & Non-Profit Funding
- $200 million investment in municipalities through the 2021 Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) to help 424 communities build and repair roads, bridges, water, and wastewater infrastructure.
- $1 billion in additional COVID‐19 financial relief, including:
- $500 million in additional provincial funding to support municipal operating pressures and recovery in 2021.
- $255 million in new provincial funding through the Social Services Relief Fund to support municipal service managers and Indigenous program administrators in immediately responding to rising COVID‐19 caseloads in shelter settings. This builds on the $510 million provided through the Social Services Relief Fund in 2020–21 that ensured the continuity of critical supports for vulnerable people based on local need.
- $150 million in additional provincial funding to support municipal transit systems in 2021, including expanded eligibility for municipal–provincial priorities such as fare and service integration and on‐demand micro-transit.
- $6 million annually to fund upgrades to critical infrastructure, address COVID‐19 specific capital needs, and support long‐term economic recovery in Indigenous communities.
- Building on the Province’s initial investment of $2 million in the COVID‐19 Relief Fund for Francophone Non‐Profit Organizations, an additional $1 million to support hard hit Francophone non‐profit organizations.
- $117.3 million in targeted employment and training supports to assist women, racialized individuals, Indigenous peoples, youth, and people with disabilities who are facing the highest rates of unemployment during the pandemic.
- $50 million available for grants to eligible faith‐based and cultural organizations that are not currently eligible to access other provincial support grants. To be eligible, organizations must operate facilities used for regular community gatherings and must not be eligible for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant. Details on the grant and the application process will be available later this spring.
Generating, Protecting, and Commercializing Intellectual Property
- $1.5 million investment to support the Special Implementation Team on Intellectual Property, which was established as a continuation of the work of the Expert Panel.
- This funding will help launch a web‐based IP curriculum, support the development of a centralized Ontario resource, and create a robust IP policy that will help protect home‐grown ideas and prioritize the commercialization of IP‐related products to fuel Ontario’s innovation ecosystem.
Other Business Supports
To support businesses through the COVID‐19 pandemic and into recovery, the Ontario government has also:
- Provided further reductions to taxes on job creators, including tax support to encourage investments in certain regions of Ontario that have lagged in employment growth.
- Lowered high Business Education Tax (BET) rates for job creators.
- Made permanent the Employer Health Tax (EHT) exemption increase from $490,000 to $1 million. This will end a tax on jobs for an additional 30,000 employers and save private‐sector employers about $360 million in 2021–22.
- Lowered electricity prices through measures such as the comprehensive electricity plan’s renewables cost shift to save medium size and larger industrial and commercial employers money on their electricity bills.
- Implemented targeted COVID‐19 measures like the Ontario Small Business Support Grant and property tax and energy cost rebates for eligible businesses impacted by provincial public health measures.
Find Additional Ontario Business Grants and Loans
The business support programs discussed in the Ontario 2021 Budget are only a fraction of the Canadian funding programs available to Ontario businesses. View our Ontario grant and loan funding program directory to see all the government funding programs available to you.
Interested in viewing all federal and provincial funding programs across Canada? View our Canadian government funding program directory.
If you are looking for coronavirus business support programs from Canada’s provincial or federal governments, view our COVID-19 support page to find the latest program news, infographics, statistics, and webinars on how your business can access these programs.