A pre-election budget put forward by the Doug Ford government in Ontario shows a $19.9 billion deficit, with plans to balance the books in 2027-2028. 

As reported by The Canadian Press, this year’s deficit is larger than the one the Ford government ran in the first year of the pandemic.  It comes even as the province’s Financial Accountability Officer had claimed Ontario was on track to have a balanced budget by next year.

The Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) government’s $198.6 billion 2022 Budget titled “Ontario’s Plan to Build Forward” is larger than budgets proposed by previous Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne, and plans for large investments in infrastructure including hospitals and highways and transit projects.

The budget does include a 5.7 cents-a-litre cut to Ontario’s gas tax for six months, and  mentions the child care deal with the Trudeau government announced last month. It also offers an elimination and reimbursement of licence plate renewal fees.

A new Ontario Seniors Care at Home Tax Credit is included, in addition to an enhanced Ontario’s Low-income Individuals and Families Tax Credit. Meanwhile, the low-income tax credit’s maximum amount is being raised from $850 to $875, and the government is giving more individuals the opportunity to qualify for the program.

Tax credits offered to film and television productions would also be extended to include online productions.

The budget would provide lower-income workers with additional tax relief averaged at $300 for the year 2022.

The PC budget – which is bound to be used as a platform for Premier Doug Ford’s re-election bid in June – has earned criticism from both right-wing and left-wing opposition parties. 

New Blue Party of Ontario leader Jim Karahalios has stated the budget “will continue the reckless spending legacy of the McGuinty-Wynne government that preceded this Ford PC government.”

Karahalios claimed that “(t)he Ford PCs will also try to hide the fact that for four years they have offered no tax relief for Ontarians” and that they “will try to hide the fact that they broke every single fiscal promise they made in the 2018 campaign.”

Meanwhile, NDP leader Andrea Horwath was skeptical toward the idea that Ford would follow through with his big spending promises, claiming he “is going to go right back to cutting the minute this election is over if we give him the chance.”

Liberal leader Steven Del Duca said the PC’s budget lacks ambition, while Green Party leader Mike Shriner described it as “pro-sprawl” and “anti-climate.”

Ontario’ finance minister Peter Bethlenfalvy defended the big-spending budget and its large deficit, saying that “sparing no expense during the pandemic was the right thing to do.”

“Rebuilding Ontario’s economy today is the right thing to do in a fiscally responsible way, which we demonstrated in this budget.”

During the 2018 Ontario election, Ford promised to find efficiencies and balance the budget by the end of his term – he  is now being accused of breaking that promise. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic did have a considerable impact on the provincial finances, it should be noted that Alberta’s Jason Kenney government recently presented its first balanced budget in 14 years.

The Ontario general election is set for Jun. 2. Currently, polls from 338Canada show Doug Ford’s PCs are on track to win another majority government.

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