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McGuinty Says Ontario Entering Lean Times With Less Spending

Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said today Canada’s most-populous province is entering “lean times” and that people shouldn’t expect the government to continue spending at the rate it has in recent years.

“We’ve entered into what you might call the lean times,” McGuinty said at a news conference after a speech in Ottawa. “The economy’s not going to grow as quickly. We cannot invest in new government spending to the extent we have.”

McGuinty’s remarks follow a report by the Conference Board of Canada this month that Ontario won’t be able to eliminate its deficit for another decade as slowing economic growth curbs revenue. McGuinty reiterated the government’s projection that it will eliminate its deficit by the fiscal year beginning April 2017.

Reductions in spending will require the province to examine the wages of public-sector employees such as nurses, doctors and teachers, McGuinty said. The government will negotiate “fairly and firmly” with public-sector unions to keep Ontario on a “sure and steady path” to balance the budget.

“I cannot guarantee there will be no interruption in public services,” he said.

Ontario will release a report by former Toronto-Dominion Bank chief economist Don Drummond on Feb. 15 about the province’s fiscal health. The report will show that cash transfers from the federal government don’t treat Ontario fairly compared with other provinces. McGuinty said.

Moody’s Investors Service in December cut its outlook for Ontario to negative and said the province needs to balance its books and reduce its debt to avoid a rating downgrade. Moody’s rates Ontario Aa1, its second-highest level.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Mayeda in Ottawa at amayeda@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net

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