Ontario spent $3.5B less than planned in last fiscal year, watchdog says

Queens Park

The Ontario government spent $3.5 billion less than planned in the last fiscal year, the province's fiscal watchdog said Tuesday.

In a new report, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario compared the Progressive Conservative government's budget projections for 2019-2020, including changes made after the budget was tabled, with its actual spending.

While the government increased its spending plan by a net $2.6 billion late last year, it actually spent 2.2 per cent less than planned in the period ending March 31, the FAO said.

The watchdog said the most significant underspending was seen in interest on debt, which came in $1 billion under budget; health, which was $466 million under budget; and investments in public transit, which were $375 million under budget.

The FAO projects the province will see an interim deficit of $8.7 billion for 2019-2020, or $500 million less than what the government predicted in its latest fiscal update delivered in March.

The Tories tabled a one-year fiscal outlook earlier this year rather than a full budget, citing the COVID-19 pandemic's uncertain future effects on the economy. A full budget is expected to be tabled by Nov. 15.

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