Ontario Faces June 12 Election as Budget Rejected

Canada’s most populous province will hold an election June 12, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said today, after opposition leaders announced they won’t support her budget.

“We need to move forward at a steady balanced approach, we can’t veer off to the left or the right,” Wynne told reporters in Toronto after meeting Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley to dissolve the legislature. “We can’t risk that. My government has a clear plan to create good, well paying jobs in Ontario.”

Andrea Horwath, leader of the New Democratic Party, said earlier she had lost confidence in the government and would not support its budget. Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak said yesterday he wouldn’t back it.

Wynne’s Liberals estimated in their budget yesterday the province will run a C$12.5 billion ($11.4 billion) deficit in the fiscal year that started April 1 to pay for more transit, schools and hospitals and spur faster economic growth. The budget also called for a higher minimum wage and other supports for those with lower incomes while increasing taxes on top earners.

“I cannot in good conscience support a government that people don’t trust any more,” Horwath said today at a Toronto press conference. “I don’t think that anybody believes that this government can fulfill its promises.”

The budget shortfall in the fiscal year ended March 31 was C$11.3 billion, according to budget estimates, which also pegged 2014-15 revenue at C$118.9 billion, or C$1.6 billion less than forecast in the previous budget.

Schools, Hospitals

With 48 seats in the 107-seat legislature, Wynne’s minority government needs the support of the opposition parties to pass its budget. By parliamentary tradition, a defeat on a budget triggers elections. Wynne’s decision today pre-empts that defeat.

The budget promised to make C$29 billion available over the next ten years to invest in transportation infrastructure and another C$22.4 billion over ten years for schools and hospitals, as well as instituting a new provincial retirement pension plan by 2017.

“What the Liberals are about is promises that don’t get fulfilled,” Horwath said. “They’re about budgets that are high on promises but low on delivery. What they’re about is throwing everything and the kitchen sink into a budget to try to cover over the scandal and the waste.”

Wynne’s government has been dogged by questions over her predecessor’s decision to cancel two gas-fired power plants before the last election and giving misleading estimates of the cost, which the auditor general estimated at about C$950 million.

The Ontario Provincial Police are investigating whether former premier Dalton McGuinty’s chief of staff illegally deleted e-mails documenting the decision to cancel the power plants, according to court documents.

“We need competent economic management in our province,” said the Progressive Conservative’s Hudak yesterday.

The budget called for C$900 million in new tax revenue this year from those earning more than C$150,000 annually, tobacco and aviation fuel.

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