Facing a $9.8B deficit, Ontario releases largest budget in provincial history

Mar 28, 2024 | News, Provincial News

The Ontario government is pushing through slow economic growth with the highest budget the province has ever seen.

Ontario Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy released the $214 billion provincial budget on March 27 at Queens Park.

In the face of high-interest rates and economic uncertainty, Bethlenfalvy said the province would continue to invest money into Ontario while keeping costs low for families and businesses.

“While economic growth is expected to significantly slow in the coming year, private sector forecasters are cautiously optimistic that it will not drop into negative territory before rebounding in subsequent years,” he said.

Instead of raising taxes or cutting investments to cover provincial debt, the government plans to move forward with their plans and wait for the future return on investments, Bethlenfalvy said.

The Ontario budget forecasts a $9.8 billion deficit for the 2024-2025 year, compared to $3 billion in 2023-2024.

This contrasts the 2023 budget which predicted a $200 million surplus by 2024-2025, according to Ontario’s website.

Bonnie Crombie, the Ontario Liberal Party leader, said the provincial government’s budget is a “do-nothing budget” and does not help the people who need it the most.

“The Minister concedes economic growth is down and the debt deficit is up, but he does nothing to help families and local businesses who are struggling,” Crombie said in a press release.

Official Opposition NDP leader Marit Stiles also said Ford’s budget did not do enough to help Ontarians.

“People are looking for better health care and homes they can afford,” Stiles said in a press release. “Instead, they got an uninspired statement from a government that is out of touch and out of ideas.”

She said the government had an opportunity to help Ontarians but decided to use policies that continue to fail.

Ontario resident Dave Campanella said the lack of change in the budget is not surprising to him, but he likes to see the government investing more in Ontario.

“I like where they’re putting some of the money. I think it’s the right thing to do,” Campanella said. “But we don’t have a choice but to deal with it.”

According to the budget, the government is committing more than $190 billion in the next 10 years to develop housing, transit, highway expansions and other infrastructure supporting economic growth.

Another key element in the budget is to continue putting money into the pockets of Ontario residents by cutting taxes, instilling policies such as One Fare, and continuing to freeze tuition for post-secondary education.

The budget forecasts a surplus of $500 million by 2026-2027 by investing in Ontario’s future instead of worrying about today, Bethlenfalvy said.

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel, we can see it,” he said. “with that said, we are not out of the tunnel quite yet.”