On Thursday, the provincial government released its latest budget with $186.1 billion set aside for several projects.

Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott also serves as the Minister of Infrastructure, so she tells the MyHaliburtonNow.com newsroom she’s excited to see a “historic and unprecedented” investment into broadband. A total of $2.8 billion is earmarked to ensure everyone in Ontario has access to high-speed internet by 2025. “I’m very passionate about it, and so are the people that don’t have a good internet connection,” she says, adding that for the economy to recover, Ontarians having access to better internet will play a major role.

“We’re in the second year – if you can believe it – of a global pandemic and it’s nothing any of us have experienced before, but we are there to support the people of Ontario,” she says of her party’s budget.

Scott highlights how over the next four years another $51 billion is being invested into the province’s COVID-19 Action Plan. “We’re very optimistic that the people of Ontario with our support will come out of this fighting,” she says.

“I think the Minister of Finance did an incredible job in providing funding to what we need right now,” Scott says of the budget. She points to the $3.8 billion set aside for mental health and addictions services. “The investment in healthcare is massive,” she adds. That includes $1 billion to boost the province’s vaccine roll-out and $2.3 billion to improve COVID-19 testing and contact tracing over the next year.

Officials with the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce say they welcome the focus the bill has on tourism, small business, women, training, and local communities. “Ontario’s 2021 Budget means supports for the hardest-hit sectors and communities including right here in the Haliburton Highlands much needed aid for women who have been deeply impacted by the pandemic, and initiatives that will create a strong economic rebound related to tourism, training, and vital infrastructure such as broadband,” said President of the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce Andrea Strano.

The Conservative budget was slammed by the leader of the Opposition, Andrea Horwath. In a statement Horwath said if this were an NDP budget it would have funded paid sick days and offered paid leave for workers to get the COVID-19 vaccination, “Ontarians deserved a budget that gave them help getting to the other side of the pandemic, and hope for a future they can look forward to.”

Liberal Leader Stephen Del Duca said while he welcomes the increase in spending on health care it falls “woefully short of what Ontarians need.” Del Duca also says the budget doesn’t offer enough support for women, racialized Ontarians and young people.

Meanwhile, teachers’ unions have slammed the Ford budget for a lack of spending on education. In a joint statement they claim the Ford government has failed to deliver a budget that keeps up with the rate of inflation and enrollment. The unions are calling on the province to invest in lower class sizes, enhanced safety measures, mental health support, and support for students with special education needs.