Ontario finance minister confident budget to pass

Mon Apr 16, 2012 3:56pm EDT
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By Claire Sibonney

TORONTO (Reuters) - Ontario's minority Liberal government will likely get the support it needs from the left-wing New Democrats to pass this year's budget into law and avoid a political showdown, the Canadian province's finance minister said on Monday.

The Liberals require the backing of either opposition party - the NDP or the right-leaning Conservatives - to stay in power and dodge a second election in only six months.

"The NDP have been responsible in their requests. We don't agree necessarily with all of them but at a minimum, we have an obligation to act in the same good faith that they did in terms of analyzing and responding to them," Finance Minister Dwight Duncan told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"I'm confident that cooler heads will prevail and that we can avoid an election that absolutely nobody that I've spoken to wants to see happen."

All three parties including the Conservatives - who have already said they won't support the budget - will vote on the government's spending plan on April 24.

In a bid to eliminate its C$15.3 billion ($15.3 billion) budget deficit, Duncan put corporate tax cuts on hold and outlined an aggressive plan to cap public sector compensation and lower program spending growth.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath has offered several budget proposals that she said could help win her party over, such as a tax hike for those who earn more than C$500,000, reining in pay for public sector executives and creating and a tax credit for companies who create jobs.

Duncan declined to comment on which areas the two parties are most likely to find a compromise.   Continued...

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty (L) looks on as Finance Minister Dwight Duncan delivers the provincial budget at Queens Park in Toronto, March 27, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Blinch