The auditor general is raising a red flag about Premier Kathleen Wynne’s red ink.
Auditor general Bonnie Lysyk used her annual report Tuesday to scold Wynne’s deficit-running administration.
“This is a concern,” Lysyk said of the provincial debt, which has ballooned to $267 billion as of March 31.
It could be $325 billion by 2017-18 when the Liberals plan to stop running budget deficits and get back into the black.
“That’s about $23,000 for every single man, woman, and child in this province. That’s a heavy load” the auditor general said at Queen’s Park.
“And it could get heavier if interest rates start to rise above their current (historic) low levels. The cost of repaying the debt and the annual interest each year consumes money that we’d all rather see going to programs that help people directly.”
Indeed, Lysyk warned that the debt burden could lead to the “crowding out” of other spending.
She noted that in 2007-08 one in every 12 tax dollars was spent servicing debt whereas it will be one in nine by 2017-18.
That’s despite the fact interest rates have been at historic lows for years.
Lysyk warned Ontario is vulnerable to rate hikes and credit-rating downgrades that could lead to higher borrowing costs.
In the June 12 election, then Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak campaigned on the need for restraint, but his message fell on deaf ears from voters wary of the need for cuts.
Hudak’s replacement, interim leader Jim Wilson, said Lysyk’s findings prove his party was right to sound the alarm.
“The auditor general now joins the Conference Board of Canada, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the PC Caucus, who have all raised serious red flags about the Liberals’ out-of-control spending,” said Wilson.
“Now more than ever, we need to safeguard investments in hospital beds for seniors and residential services for those with development disabilities,” he said.