October 3, 2016 / 7:17 PM / 4 years ago

Ontario says 2015-16 deficit smaller than projected, debt rises

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian province of Ontario ran a smaller deficit in the 2015-16 fiscal year than previously projected, although net debt increased, the provincial government said on Monday in an unaudited annual report.

The government said the deficit for the 2015-16 fiscal year ended March 31 would come in at C$5 billion ($3.81 billion), versus the C$5.7 billion projected in February.

The net debt has risen by C$10.7 billion to C$305.2 billion, according to the Liberal government’s report, which added that Canada’s most populous province remained on track to balance its budget by 2017-18.

Provincial Treasury Board President Liz Sandals said the government published the report unaudited because of a difference of opinion on accounting methods with Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk.

In what it called a departure from the usual practice, the province said Lysyk had wanted the surplus on two public-sector pension plans off the government’s balance sheet.

Lysyk’s views were ultimately taken into account in the unaudited report, Sandals told reporters, saying the deficit would have otherwise been even lower at C$3.5 billion.

“We wanted to take a cautious approach during the period under which this issue will be reviewed by experts,” Sandals said, without giving a timeline.

Lysyk said by telephone she was “disappointed” by the government’s move but that her office was proceeding with an audit of the report.

Ontario accounts for about 40 percent of the country’s economy and has run deficits for nearly a decade.

Editing by Chris Reese and Peter Cooney

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