file photo of Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa visiting the Nemak plant in Windsor on January 19, 2015. (Photo by Jason Viau)

Ontario To Return To Deficit

With just months until voters go to the polls, Ontario’s Finance Minister has announced his next budget will put the province back in the red.

Charles Sousa announced Wednesday that he will deliver a pre-election budget on March 28 that contains a deficit. He claimed the government is choosing to run a deficit in order to make more investments in hospitals, mental health, long-term care, and child care.

“Ontario has achieved a fiscal surplus this year,” Sousa said in a statement released Wednesday. “While the state of our economy may change, our values never will. The 2018 Budget will reaffirm our commitment to grow the economy and create jobs while maintaining progressive policies like free tuition and free pharmacare. These investments are making a positive difference in the lives of people.”

Sousa’s statement did not say how large the deficit figure will be, but according to the Toronto Star, he told the Economic Club of Canada it would be less than 1% of GDP, which would work out to somewhere in the neighbourhood of $8-billion.

Sousa said the 2018-2019 budget will include a plan to return to balance.

But the opposition at Queen’s Park isn’t buying it.

“Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals are untrustworthy, especially when it comes to our finances,” said Progressive Conservative MPP and Finance Critic Lisa MacLeod. “Now, after promising a ‘balanced budget’ for years to come, the Wynne Liberals are already changing their tune and plunging the province back into a deficit. They can’t be trusted to keep their word.”

MacLeod said any promise made by the Wynne Liberals in the March 28 budget will be “nothing more than a costly re-election ploy they have no intention of keeping.”

“The Wynne Liberals have spent the last 15 years cutting health care and allowing our schools to crumble. Now they are promising they’ll do better, if only the voters will give them four more years. Ontarians aren’t buying it. The reality is that if there was something they wanted to get done, it would already be done. They are desperate, and they are trying to lure in Ontarians with last-ditch promises,” said NDP Finance Critic John Vanthof.