Ontario Premier Wynne Pledges Budget Balance and Cooperation

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne promised to eliminate the province’s deficit by the fiscal year starting April 2017 and to work with opposition parties to secure support for her minority government.

Wynne, who replaced Dalton McGuinty as leader of the province’s Liberal Party last month, made the pledge today in a speech laying out her government’s agenda. Ontario is Canada’s most populous province.

“For the benefit of the entire province, your government intends to work with opposition parties, in a spirit of renewed cooperation, to get the people’s business done,” according to a copy of a speech read in the province’s legislature by Lieutenant Governor David Onley.

Wynne said her government will restrain spending to balance the budget by 2017-18, as promised by McGuinty. After the deficit is eliminated, Ontario will restrict spending increases to one percentage point below gross domestic product growth until the province’s debt-to-GDP ratio returns to 27 percent, she said.

The message of restraint comes as the province struggles with 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 51 of the 107 seats in the provincial legislature, meaning they need some support from opposition lawmakers to pass budgets and remain in power.

Former Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said Jan. 22 the province’s deficit in the fiscal year that began in April will be C$11.9 billion ($11.8 billion), less than the C$14.8 billion previously forecast.

Wynne said the province’s “true potential cannot be reached through austerity alone.” The government will contribute C$50 million to a new venture-capital fund and try to create jobs through the deployment of energy-saving technologies, she said.

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