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Yesterday, Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy tabled the Province’s annual Budget, and it includes some important measures that will benefit the HVACR sector.

Not surprisingly the principal focus of the budget is on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic –through investments in long-term care and other healthcare needs on the one hand and supports for individuals, small businesses and critical parts of the economy (e.g. the automotive sector).

Training for affected individuals – particularly in the skilled trades – has been a focus throughout the pandemic and this budget allocated a total of $288.2 million in 2021–22 for the Skilled Trades Strategy (first announced in Budget 2020) that includes the following enhancements:

  • Providing an additional $39.6 million over three years, beginning in 2021–22, 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 in Grades 11 and 12 to gain job‐ready skills and explore opportunities in the skilled trades.
  • Investing $3 million over three years in a new pilot bursary program for hands‐on learning in the skilled trades. Starting in 2021–22, this bursary will support approximately 1,000 students with financial and other barriers to obtain their Ontario Secondary School Diploma. This program includes participation in a cooperative education course focused on the skilled trades.
  • Expanding the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) to include a Grade 10 summer learning opportunity, starting in 2021. OYAP allows students in Grades 11 and 12 to gain exposure to a variety of good jobs in the skilled trades through cooperative education placements, while earning credits towards their high school diploma.
  • Creation of a digital portal for skilled trades and apprenticeships.
  • A new temporary Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit for 2021. This Personal Income Tax credit would be refundable and provide support to eligible individuals whether or not they owe income tax for 2021. It would be calculated as 50 per cent of eligible expenses (such as specific training programs or post-secondary courses that provide credits toward a degree, diploma or certificate) for 2021. The maximum credit would be $2,000. This tax credit is estimated to provide $260M in support to 230,000 people in 2021.

To support small businesses, the government announced a second round of grants through the Small Business Support Grant. These $10,000 to $20,000 grants will be paid to those businesses that have already received support. This is expected to provide $1.7B in relief to these businesses.

The budget’s references to energy policy tend to be in relation to previously announced relief for home and business electricity customers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns, with specific mention of the Energy and Property Tax credit provided to hard-hit small businesses and the COVID-19 related rate adjustments.

Budget 2021 also specifically mentions the previous 2020 Budget’s Comprehensive Electricity Plan as “working to ensure that Ontario’s job creators receive wind, solar and bioenergy generated electricity at a competitive price.” This is very much in line with the government’s focus on protecting and supporting Ontarians through the remainder of the pandemic.  And, as expected, the budget re-iterated previously announced spending of approximately $320M in 2020-21 to provide off-peak electricity pricing for eligible residential, farm and small business customers, which concluded on February 22, 2021. Added to the Comprehensive Electricity Plan, the government will be providing $1.15B in additional support for employers’ electricity consumption in 2021.

Green Bonds remain a core component of Ontario’s borrowing program and are an important tool to help finance public transit initiatives, extreme weather-resistant infrastructure, as well as energy efficiency and conservation projects. Subject to market conditions, Ontario plans to continue to issue multiple Green Bonds each fiscal year, including in 2021–22.

While HRAI’s pre-budget submission to the government included elements (e.g. a home and energy retrofit led economic stimulus program) that are not reflected in this final budget, the emphasis on new investments in trades training supports is consistent with HRAI’s more recent submissions concerning trades training and apprenticeship.

For more information, contact Martin Luymes at 1-800-267-2231 ext. 235, or email mluymes@hrai.ca.