Ontario’s Liberal government is borrowing billions to bankroll new pre-election budget spending aimed at seniors and young families.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa — who finally balanced the books last year when he promised surpluses for the foreseeable future — said Wednesday that Queen’s Park will run a $6.7-billion deficit in 2018-19.
“We slayed the deficit … but make no mistake … balancing the budget is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end and the end is a stronger Ontario,” Sousa told the Legislature as he defended a return to shortfalls.
Sousa’s record $158.5-billion budget — with a new $2.2-billion program of free child care for preschoolers, dental benefits for those without coverage, and $750 annually for seniors to pay for house maintenance — was tabled six weeks before the official launch of the June 7 election.
“We must work to ensure that opportunity reaches everyone — women, students, seniors — and those who are in precarious work, toiling away in the gig economy,” the treasurer said, signalling “fairness, caring, and opportunity” is the Liberals’ re-election mantra.
“Good public and social policy must also be sound economic policy, and that is what makes it sustainable,” said Sousa, who does not forecast the books to be back in black until 2024-25.