Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli delivers the fall economic statement

The fall economic statement, which includes spending cuts, some tax relief and a number of steps aimed at boosting affordability, is the first budget document unveiled under Premier Doug Ford.

The fall economic statement, unveiled Thursday, includes spending cuts and some tax relief

Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli delivered the Doug Ford government's first mini-budget, the fall economic statement, on Thursday afternoon. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

Finance Minister Vic Fedeli spoke in the Ontario legislature about the province's fall economic statement on Thursday afternoon, calling it the "next step in our plan for the people."

Fedeli is set to answer questions about the economic statement in a news conference on Thursday afternoon. 

The statement unveiled the PCs' short-term plans for spending restraint in the face of what Fedeli says is a $15-billion deficit inherited from the previous Liberal government.

You can read more about the contents of the statement here: 

The fall economic statement, which includes spending cuts, some tax relief and a number of steps aimed at boosting affordability, is the first budget document unveiled under Premier Doug Ford. 

As part of the economic statement, the PC's have announced a plan to cut the number of legislative officers from nine to six positions. 

Previous reporting below. 

Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli is poised to eliminate at least two provincial watchdog positions on Thursday as the government of Premier Doug Ford launches its cost-cutting drive, CBC News has learned.

Fedeli is scheduled to deliver the fall economic statement, the first budget document under Ford, on Thursday.

It will unveil the PCs' short-term plans for spending restraint in the face of what Fedeli says is a $15-billion deficit inherited from the previous Liberal government.

Two offices facing cuts are those of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario and the Ontario Child Advocate, according to government and PC party sources who spoke to CBC News. Both agencies are headed by independent officers who report to the legislature, rather than to the government, giving them an independent status similar to the auditor general.

Three sources say the position of child advocate will be scrapped. The child advocate has a mandate to investigate ill-treatment of children in the foster care and Children's Aid Society systems and to review government policy and practice around services to children.

The child advocate has frequently produced critical reports that triggered changes in provincial policy. The post is held by Irwin Elman, who was appointed in 2008. He has been an outspoken critic of the child welfare system and has called for automatic inquests into every death of a child in care. 

One source indicated the child advocate's duties could be shifted to the provincial ombudsman's office.

Ontario Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe was appointed to the position in 2015. (Office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario)

Three sources also tell CBC News that the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is facing cuts. Two of those officials said the position of environmental commissioner will be eliminated, while the third government source said that is not entirely accurate.

The environmental commissioner has a mandate to monitor the government's compliance with provincial environmental laws, including Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights, and to report annually on the government's progress toward its greenhouse gas reduction targets. The current commissioner is Dianne Saxe, a former environmental lawyer, appointed in 2015. 

A spokesperson for Ford's office did not respond Wednesday to a request to confirm or deny the positions will be eliminated.

Ford and Fedeli began setting the stage for budget cuts in September, when Fedeli announced that a government-appointed panel pegged this year's deficit at $15 billion, some $8 billion more than Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government forecast in its budget in March. "The hole is deep and it will require everyone to make sacrifices without exception," Fedeli said at the time.

Fedeli's economic statement is expected to reveal what some of those sacrifices will be. On Wednesday night, Ford tweeted about one way he will try to make the cuts easier for Ontarians to swallow: extended hours for buying alcohol.

Ford campaigned and won the election on a promise to reduce the size and cost of government. At the same time, he pledged frequently during the campaign that no provincial workers would lose their jobs with him as premier. Rather, he promised to find unspecified "efficiencies" that would save up to $6 billion annually. His party published a list of spending and tax cut promises during the campaign, but no detailed fiscal plan.   

So far the main efficiencies identified by the Ford government are eliminating landlines in ministerial offices (saving $14,000 annually in Fedeli's office) and going paperless (saving $26,000 at the Treasury Board secretariat.)

Added together, those savings total about 1/375,000th of the deficit.

Fedeli faced sexual misconduct allegation 

Fedeli is scheduled to deliver the economic statement in the Ontario Legislature shortly after 1 p.m ET. This comes a day after former PC leader Patrick Brown revealed in a new book that a female PC staffer had accused Fedeli of inappropriate behaviour in December 2017. In January of this year, Brown was forced to resign as party leader amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

CBC News has independently verified that the allegation was made against Fedeli. The allegation has never been tested in court.

'"These accusations from Patrick Brown are categorically false and without any merit," Fedeli said in a statement. 

On Wednesday night, Ford issued a statement declaring Fedeli has his full support. Earlier this month, Ford forced Jim Wilson to resign from cabinet and leave the PC caucus after a staffer made an allegation against Wilson of sexually inappropriate behaviour. 


Mike Crawley

Provincial affairs reporter

Mike Crawley is a senior reporter for CBC News, covering provincial affairs in Ontario. He has won awards for his reporting on the eHealth spending scandal and flaws in Ontario's welfare-payment computer system. Before joining the CBC in 2005, Mike filed stories from 19 countries in Africa as a freelance journalist and worked as a newspaper reporter in B.C. He was born and raised in Saint John, N.B.


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