Ontario to release provincial budget March 27

Thu Mar 15, 2012 1:07pm EDT
 
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By Claire Sibonney

TORONTO (Reuters) - Ontario's minority Liberal government has set March 27 as the date for the Canadian province's next budget, which is expected to outline tough austerity measures designed to rein in a C$16 billion ($16.1 billion) deficit.

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said on Thursday that the public should be prepared for "difficult choices", and revealed there will be hefty cuts in infrastructure spending in coming years.

"This will probably be the most significant budget this government has ever delivered. Arguably it will be a very significant budget relative to any budget that's been delivered in Ontario," Duncan told reporters.

Duncan said the budget would include both new revenue initiatives and spending cuts and that it will be "heavy on the spending side."

He told Reuters last week the province may also cancel plans to cut corporate taxes until it balances its books in 2017-18. He said the government plans to eliminate its deficit by then "come hell or high water".

Ontario's finances are under scrutiny after a report commissioned by the government said last month that the province must control education and healthcare costs and scrap some popular programs to keep the deficit from spiraling out of control.

Ontario has by far the biggest population and economy of any Canadian province. Its manufacturers, especially automakers, were pummeled in the recession and are still under pressure from a soft U.S. recovery and a strong Canadian dollar.

($1=$0.99 Canadian)

(With additional writing by Jeffrey Hodgson Editing by Peter Galloway)