Ontario unveils budget but opposition support uncertain

Thu May 1, 2014 6:10pm EDT
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By Leah Schnurr

TORONTO (Reuters) - Ontario's minority Liberal government unveiled a budget on Thursday that projected a larger-than-forecast deficit for fiscal year 2014-15, but it was not clear whether the budget would get enough opposition support to pass and stave off a summer election.

Canada's most populous province, which accounts for about 40 percent of the country's economy, will run a budget shortfall of C$12.5 billion ($11.39 billion)in 2014-15 under the C$130.4 billion budget plan unveiled by Finance Minister Charles Sousa.

The deficit is above the government's year-ago forecast of C$10.1 billion, and more than its 2013-14 shortfall of C$11.3 billion. The province reiterated it plans to return to a balanced budget by 2017-18.

The budget included a proposal for a mandatory provincial pension plan and a tax increase for high-income workers as well as spending for transportation and public infrastructure.

With just 48 seats in the 107-seat Ontario legislature, Premier Kathleen 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-largest number of seats, denounced the budget as a "charade" and called it a tax-and-spend budget.

New Democrat leader Andrea Horwath, whose party propped up the Liberals and helped pass the government's budget last year, will not comment on the new budget until Friday.

"This is a budget that's long term in scope," Sousa told reporters. "It's not about election cycle decisions, nor should it ever be."   Continued...

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa (R) delivers the provincial budget as Ontario Premiere Kathleen Wynne looks on at Queens Park in Toronto, May 1, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch