Ontario budget preview: What to expect Thursday

The good news for cash strapped taxpayers is political scientists and economists we spoke to don't expect Ontario's Finance Minister Charles Sousa to raise your taxes in the upcoming budget.

Experts believe taxes won't rise, but they wonder how the government will balance the books

Finance Minister Charles Sousa will table the provincial budget on Thursday. Don't expect any big surprises, experts are telling CBC News. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

When Finance Minister Charles Sousa rises in the Ontario legislature to bring down his budget on Thursday, taxpayers, investors and political pundits will all be watching for signals on where Premier Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government wants to take the province and its economy.  

CBC News spoke to some experts this week to get a sense of not only what they're expecting, but also what they want to hear from Sousa. 

The good news for cash-strapped taxpayers is the political scientists and economists we spoke to don't expect Sousa to raise taxes in the upcoming budget.

"They won't cut or increase taxes," said Geneviéve Tellier, associate professor at the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa.

Tellier doesn't expect there will be many big surprises but she said she'd like to see more specifics on how the province plans to eliminate the $7.5 billion deficit.

"It will tell us where the province is economically speaking," Tellier said.

Where will the money come from?

Ian Roberge, the chair of the Department of Political Science at York's Glendon College, wonders where the Wynne government will get the money it needs to get back in the black.

"The expectation on the part of the Liberals has been that the economy is going to pick up, that's going to fuel economic growth, and those increases in revenue are going to balance the budget," Roberge said.

"But that economic growth hasn`t been as substantive as (the government) hoped."

Roberge told CBC News there's not much left for the government to cut and if it doesn't raise taxes, he wonders how the Liberals will raise revenue for big-ticket infrastructure projects, such as the billions of dollars worth of transit improvements the Wynne government has promised for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. 

The province is expected to benefit from the federal government promise to finance public transit and green projects.

User fees?

Professor James McKellar with the Schulich School of Business at York University said the province still has to pony up billions of dollars it doesn't have.

"I'm not sure how much it can build with public money," said McKeller.

McKeller said one reality to consider is user fees, which he said no one wants to touch politically.

Tellier said the fact the province is tabling its budget before the federal government brings down may indicate the Ontario government is confident its economy is rosier than expected.

She said the weak Canadian dollar has been good for exports.

"It seems to indicate Ontario could go it alone for a bit longer," says Tellier.

Roberge wants to see the revenues generated from the sale of shares in Hydro One in Thursday's budget.

"They staked their future on a 60 per cent sale of Hydro One. This will follow them to 2018," when voters go back to the polls, Roberge said.


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