Ontario throne speech: Liberals to spend on infrastructure, cut deficit

The Liberals are promising big spending as well as restraint in a throne speech that lays out their agenda for the next decade and beyond.

Former premier Dalton McGuinty in attendance

Ontario's Premier Kathleen Wynne (left) sits with Finance Minister Charles Sousa as they attend the Throne Speech at Queens Park in Toronto on Tuesday. (The Canadian Press)

The Liberals are promising big spending as well as restraint in a throne speech that lays out their agenda for the next decade and beyond.

They're promising to be fiscally responsible by curbing spending to meet their goal of eliminating the $12.5-billion deficit in three years. But they also plan to spend $130 billion on public infrastructure over 10 years as well as other measures to help grow Ontario's economy.

The speech, written by the Liberals but read by Lt.-Gov. David Onley, says the government will also invest in education, skills training and corporate grants to boost the province's economic potential.

But they cautioned there's no money for wage increases in the broader public sector as new contract talks loom on the horizon.

They say voters gave them the green light when they returned them to power with a majority of seats in the legislature.

"This means your government will implement its plan by convening people first, instead of directing them," Onley said.  "It will not invite your questions only after decisions are taken, but as decisions are made."

One of those decisions was the costly cancellation of two gas plants, which has dogged them for years. A legislative committee looking into the cancellations was to hear from more witnesses before the June 12 election was called.

The speech promised more government transparency and accountability, but the Liberals didn't promise more hearings, only that they would take steps to allow the committee to write its report.

What was supposed to be a banner day for the re-elected Liberals started on a sour note. Moody's debt rating agency changed its outlook on Ontario's debt rating from stable to negative late Wednesday, citing concerns about the Liberal government's ability to slay the $12.5-billion deficit in three years.

It didn't change the province's debt ratings, but a downgrade would increase the cost of borrowing — which currently adds up to $11 billion a year.

The Liberals insist they can balance the books without eliminating public sector jobs or cutting public services, and they
won't change their budget.

"Your government's efforts to lift children out of poverty, send more young people on to postsecondary education and help businesses become more globally competitive are all part of the same equation, because together they add up to more opportunity, more security and more economic growth," the speech said.

The budget, which will be re-introduced on July 14, was the foundation and frame of the throne speech, which reiterated many other measures in the $130.4-billion spending blueprint, such as creating a made-in-Ontario pension plan.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath called it a Trojan horse budget — promising more spending but at the same time outlining austerity measures that she says will cost tens of thousands of public sector jobs.

Former premier Dalton McGuinty was also in attendance.

Ontario's former Premier Dalton McGuinty arrives to hear Lt.-Gov. David Onley deliver the Throne Speech at Queens Park in Toronto on Thursday. (The Canadian Press)