Pre-election budget to be delivered March 28 will put Ontario back into deficit, finance minister says

After delivering balanced books last year, Ontario's finance minister says the province's upcoming budget will run a deficit.

Charles Sousa touted Ontario's 'strengthened fiscal position' but said he won't 'leave people behind'

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa, right, has announced that he will deliver the pre-election budget in three weeks time. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa announced during a speech at Toronto's Economic Club Wednesday that he will deliver the pre-election budget on March 28.

Last year, the province delivered its first balanced budget in a decade.

But Sousa told the audience that beginning next year, Ontario will once again be running a deficit "at less than one per cent of GDP." 

Describing the move as putting the province's "strengthened fiscal position to work," the minister said the goal is to better support social and developmental services, mental health, healthcare, and students. 

"Even though I have fought long and hard to slay the deficit and balance the books ... I will not leave people behind," he said. 

Deficit is 'broken promise:' PC party 

The Ontario Progressive Conservative party released a statement blasting Sousa's announcement as "yet another broken promise" from the Liberals. 

To prove their point, they linked to a section of the Liberal government's 2017 Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review, which projected an "ongoing balance in 2018-19 and 2019-20."  

Former leader Patrick Brown's platform, released this past November and called the People's Guarantee, included a fiscal plan that showed the future PC government also running a deficit — this one at $2.8 billion in 2018-2019, with a plan to return to balanced books the following year. 

Brown resigned on Jan. 25 amid allegations of sexual misconduct, then briefly entered the race to lead the party, and then withdrew.

With the competition now narrowed down to four candidates, the Ontario PC party is set to announce its new leader this Saturday. 

Election looming

With the Ontario election now three months away, Sousa also spent a good part of his speech touting the province's economic strength.

"Over the past three years, Ontario's economy has outperformed all G7 nations. Better than Canada, or the United States, or Japan, or the United Kingdom," he said. 

During his speech, Sousa also outlined two areas of economic concern: slow economic growth (two per cent economic growth is "ok" but "not good enough,") and the failure of prosperity to reach all Ontarians. 

"We must work to ensure opportunity reaches everyone," he said.

Ontario heads to the polls on June 7.