Ontario will not have balanced budget on March 28, finance minister says
TORONTO -- The Ontario government's budget will not be balanced when it is delivered on March 28, the finance minister said Wednesday, reversing a key Liberal promise as the province prepares for a spring election.
Charles Sousa said the province will run a deficit of less than one per cent of its gross domestic product starting next year, a move he said was meant to boost growth and allow more investment in key areas such as health care and child care.
"For me, good public and social policy must also be good economic policy - and that is what makes it sustainable. So we are making a choice,'' he said in a lunchtime speech to a Toronto business audience. "We are committing to more support for social and developmental services. More supports for mental health and health-care programs. More supports for students.''
He said the decision to run a deficit is, in part, a response to challenges the province is facing.
"I see growth that is more modest than I would like and I see the benefits of that growth being shared too narrowly,'' he said. "We must act on behalf of people and in defence of our economy."
Sousa also said the spring budget, which comes before a June vote, will outline a path to return to balance.
The Progressive Conservatives said the upcoming fiscal blueprint amounts to nothing more than a "last-ditch ploy to win the next election."
"This is a government that has no real beliefs other than their own political self-interest," said Lisa MacLeod, the Tory finance critic.
"Now, right before an election, they're cynical and willing to do or say anything to cling to power. Anything they promise in this budget is nothing more than a costly re-election ploy they have no intention of keeping."
Last year, the governing Liberals posted the province's first balanced budget in a decade and had projected balanced books through to 2019-20.