TORONTO — Ontario’s first balanced budget in a decade is being released this afternoon and is expected to contain new money to benefit seniors, students, parents, caregivers and patients.
The deficit-free fiscal plan gives the province’s Liberal government some room to bring in new spending as it heads into an election year.
In a speech this week, Premier Kathleen Wynne said her plan has fairness at its heart and her approach is not to cut services, taxes and regulations and hope the results will trickle down to Ontarians.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa has already announced the budget will include a public transit tax credit for seniors, and what he calls a “booster shot” for health care.
The government has also already indicated there will be funding to increase respite services for people who act as caregivers to friends and family members, money for child-care spaces, a student job training placement initiative, investments in innovation, and money for affordable housing.
But even with a balanced budget this year, Ontario will still have debt of more than $300 billion.
In 2016-17, interest on debt was the province’s fourth-largest spending area, with $11.4 billion of interest on approximately $317 billion of debt.
The province’s net debt has tripled since the Liberals came to power. In the last budget presented by the Progressive Conservatives before the 2003 election, the debt was about $110 billion. The overall size of the budget, meanwhile, has not quite doubled: from $71 billion in 2003 to $134 billion last year.
In that time, the net-debt-to-GDP ratio has grown from about 27 per cent to about 40 per cent. The Liberal government has said it would like to get that ratio back down to the pre-recession levels of 27 per cent.