Ontario vows to balance budget, despite spending

Tue Nov 22, 2011 6:24pm EST
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By Claire Sibonney

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Liberal government of Ontario, Canada's industrial heartland, renewed its vow on Tuesday to eliminate its C$16 billion ($15.4 billion) budget deficit in six years, while also affirming some expensive spending promises made in the recent provincial election.

In the Speech from the Throne, which opened the first session of the legislature since the October 6 vote, Lieutenant Governor David Onley read the government's outline of its plans, including tuition cuts for college and university students, tax credits for seniors, and some lower taxes for families and businesses.

The Liberals, who fell one seat short of a majority government in the election, said they have rejected deep spending cuts in health and education, and will protect the province's green energy plans. The government will issue its autumn economic statement on Wednesday.

"Confronted with today's challenge of providing world class public services and a balanced budget in a time of slow growth, your government will act, once again," Onley said, emphasizing the threats from a struggling U.S. economy and a European Union on the brink of a recession.

The speech did not include ideas promoted by the opposition parties, such as Conservative leader Tim Hudak's call for a mandatory public-sector wage freeze.

Hudak told reporters he may not vote in favor of the Throne Speech if it is not amended, putting the government in danger of being brought down in the legislature and having to face another election.

The Conservatives and the left-leaning New Democrats, the other opposition party, could join forces to defeat the Liberals, either by rejecting the government's budget or other major legislation, or by voting down the Throne Speech.

"A C$16 billion hole and not one new idea on how to bring spending under control. You know what, we have a good idea: a mandatory public sector wage freeze to help get the books back in balance. We'll put that on the table tomorrow," said Hudak.   Continued...

<p>Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Minister of Finance, Dwight Duncan (R) stand after Lieutenant Governor of Ontario David Onley delivered the throne speech inside the Legislative chamber at Queen's Park in Toronto November 22, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Cassese</p>