During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario's per person spending on health care was the lowest in the country, according to a new report from the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO).
The report found that on the whole, Ontario's total program spending in 2020 was the lowest in Canada. You can read the report from the FAO, which is a body that provides independent analysis on the state of Ontario's finances, here.
"Since 2008 when the data is first available, Ontario has consistently had among the lowest levels of per person health spending in the country," the report reads..
In response to the FAO's findings, Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said in a statement that "health care is broken because government after government doesn't want to invest in it," laying the blame on both the previous Liberal and current Conservative governments for the state of the province's system.
"Ford's cuts won't fix it. Investing in people will fix it," Horwath said.
In a statement, provincial spokesperson Emily Hogeveen defended the province's spending, saying Ontario has provided $51 billion in supports to counter the effects of the pandemic and promote economic recovery in the province.
"Since the release of the 2021 Fall Economic Statement, the government has made $2.3 billion in additional investments to support our health-care system, and to support businesses impacted by the necessary public health restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant," she said.
Pandemic impact on budget balances
The report also notes that Ontario's net debt was the highest among the provinces in 2020, both in per person terms and as a share of the GDP, at $21,924 and 37.3 per cent, respectively. Those figures stem from "frequent budget deficits" over the last 40 years, according to the FAO.
The FAO report also says for most provinces in Canada, the onset of the pandemic caused budget balances to worsen as spending increases outpaced revenue growth, with net debt levels climbing in 2020.
Despite that fact, Ontario's interprovincial per person rankings didn't change much from 2019 to 2020, the FAO says.
Meanwhile, Ontario's total revenue per capita was found to be the second lowest in Canada, at $11,031. The office says that number reflects the province's low federal transfers and other revenues, slightly offset by Ontario's higher tax revenue per capita, which came in as the second highest in Canada.
The report also notes Ontario received the lowest federal transfers per capita among the provinces in 2020, which reflects Ontario's greater ability to generate tax revenues relative to the rest of Canada. That ability limits its eligibility for equalization payments.
"Since 2008, Ontario has consistently received below-average transfers from the federal government," the report reads.
In her statement, Hogeveen also said the federal government must increase its share of total health-care spending to 35 per cent through the Canada Health Transfer.
"It is the only path forward for building strong, resilient health-care systems that the people of Canada can rely on.".