Finance Minister Charles Sousa says Ontario is sticking to its spending plans despite an ominous shot across the bow from a credit-rating agency.
In a speech Thursday, Sousa told a Bay Street audience that Premier Kathleen Wynne’s recently re-elected Liberals are not backing away from massive investments while still balancing the books by 2017-18.
“Make no mistake we are determined, we are resolved. We will meet that deadline,” the minister told an Empire Club luncheon at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.
“Now, I know the rating agencies have looked at our plan and some have given their preliminary opinions about it,” he said.
That’s a reference to Moody’s Investors Service’s move last week to change Ontario’s fiscal outlook from “stable” to “negative” while still keeping the province’s Aa2 credit rating.
Moody’s said its warning reflected its doubts about Ontario eliminating a deficit that sits at $12.5 billion this year on a spending plan of $130.4 billion.
“Some believe our deficit targets are ambitious and have expressed concern about our determination to meet those targets. I accept that. It’s their job,” the treasurer said, before reminding Bay Street who won the June 12 campaign.
“And it’s my job and that of our government to deliver on our plan, the plan we introduced — and the plan Ontarians supported in the election — to strengthen our economy, create jobs and eliminate the deficit,” he said.
“I want to tell you about the ways we’re already strong, right now. Over the next four years, the private sector is forecasting economic growth in Ontario to more than double, from 1.3 per cent to 2.7 per cent by 2017. That’s good news and that’s encouraging.”
The finance minister noted that since the worst of the recession — in June 2009 — the province has created more than 450,000 net new jobs.
“Last year alone, Ontario employment increased by almost 100,000 jobs. Ontario’s unemployment rate has declined to 7.3 per cent, well below the recessionary high of 9.4 per cent,” he said.
Sousa’s comments come as he is to re-table on Monday the May 1 budget that triggered last month’s election.
Because then-Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath refused to support the minority Liberals’ fiscal blueprint, Wynne was forced to ask the lieutenant-governor to dissolve the legislature.
Now that the Liberals have a majority in the house, they don’t need any opposition support to pass the budget.