Ontario unveils budget, opposition support not clear

Thu May 2, 2013 6:19pm EDT
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By Cameron French

TORONTO (Reuters) - Ontario's minority Liberal government unveiled a budget on Thursday that projected a narrower-than-expected 2013-14 deficit and included measures aimed at securing opposition support and preventing an early election for Premier Kathleen Wynne.

However, it was not clear whether the budget will receive enough support to keep the Liberals in power, as opposition New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath said she would consult with voters before deciding what to.

Canada's most populous province, which accounts for about 40 percent of the country's economy, will run a budget shortfall of C$11.7 billion ($11.60 billion) in 2013-14 under the C$127 billion budget plan unveiled by Finance Minister Charles Sousa, who succeeded Dwight Duncan in February.

The deficit is below the government's year-ago forecast of C$12.8 billion, but above its 2012-13 shortfall of C$9.8 billion.

With just 51 seats in the 107-seat Ontario legislature, Wynne's Liberals need the support of at least one opposition party to pass the budget and avert an automatic election.

The right-leaning Progressive Conservatives, who hold the second-most seats, said they will not support the document, while Horwath gave it a lukewarm reception, even as she acknowledged the government listened to many the demands she has made in recent weeks.

"This budget clearly reflects the budget proposal we put forward ... but we want to make sure (voters) get those results," she told reporters.

Wynne, whose party's popularity jumped when she took over from longtime Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty in January, has since watched poll numbers move in favor of the PCs, as her government struggled with the fallout of a power generation spending scandal.   Continued...

A copy of Ontario's 2013 budget lies on a desk in the legislature in Toronto May 2, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch