Ontario’s Wynne Says Committed to 2017-18 Budget Balance

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said she will stick to her predecessor’s pledge to balance the province’s budget by the year starting April 2017 as she named her new cabinet.

Wynne said in a statement today her cabinet will include Ontario lawmaker Charles Sousa as finance minister. Wynne, who replaced Dalton McGuinty as leader of the province’s Liberal Party on Jan. 26, was sworn in today along with her cabinet.

Sousa, who spent two decades at Royal Bank of Canada, takes the economic helm of a province that is trying to balance its budget while boosting a languishing economy hampered by a strong Canadian dollar and weak U.S. demand. Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Ontario’s credit rating in April, citing the province’s growing debt burden and declining economic growth.

The Liberals hold 53 of the 107 seats in the provincial legislature, meaning they need some support from opposition lawmakers to pass budgets and remain in power.

“Jobs, the economy and a fair society are the priorities for this new government,” Wynne said in the statement. “We intend to work with the opposition parties to make progress on these important priorities for the people of this province.”

Sousa worked at Royal Bank as director of business development for commercial financial services and director of government and community affairs, according to his website.

Sousa, Duncan

His challenge will be to implement the province’s planned budget cuts amid resistance from public sector labor unions and opposition parties.

Sousa, who was first elected in 2007 and represents the constituency of Mississauga South, ran for the party leadership before dropping out to support Wynne to replace McGuinty. He succeeds Dwight Duncan, who was finance minister since 2005.

The McGuinty government had promised to eliminate the deficit by the 2017-18 fiscal year. Duncan said Jan. 22 the province’s deficit in the fiscal year that began in April will be C$11.9 billion ($11.9 billion), less than the C$14.8 billion he previously forecast.

Wynne also appointed Liz Sandals as education minister and Eric Hoskins as minister of economic development, while naming health minister Deb Matthews as deputy premier.

Ontario, whose manufacturing sector has struggled in recent years, had an unemployment rate of 7.7 percent in January, above the national rate of 7.0 percent.

(Updates with Sousa background in sixth paragraph.)
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