TORONTO – Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives will deliver their first major update on the state of the province’s books in two weeks, the finance minister said Thursday, promising to offer a clear snapshot of the government’s finances.
Vic Fedeli provided few details on what the Fall Economic Statement will contain when it’s issued on Nov. 15, saying only that the government did not plan to use one-time revenue to tackle the province’s $15-billion deficit.
“The days of phoney numbers in Ontario are over,” he said.
Opposition legislators said, however, that the government has overstated the deficit by including spending earmarked for programs brought in by the previous Liberal regime that are being scrapped.
Fedeli said the $15-billion figure was arrived at by a commission of inquiry that spent a month going through the previous government’s spending.
The Tories have also explained that they chose to adopt accounting practices used by the auditor general in arriving at the deficit figure.
The Liberals had fought with Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk who said they had “dramatically understated” Ontario’s deficits by counting certain pensions plans as assets and moving borrowing for a hydro plan off the province’s books. Lysyk refused to sign off on the Liberal government’s public accounts for two years as a result of the dispute.
WATCH: Ontario finance minister says Liberals left $15B deficit
Interim Liberal leader John Fraser said the government needs to clearly account for savings from programs under the Liberals that are being cancelled.
“I suspect you might see a lower (deficit) number that they will take some credit for,” he said. “But you have to take a close look at those numbers.”
The Progressive Conservatives, who won a majority in June, have not provided a timeline for getting the province to balance, although they promised during the election campaign to get back into the black by the end of their mandate.
The economic statement is delivered annually to provide an update on the province’s finances. In 2017, the-then Liberal government used it to cut taxes for small businesses in an effort to offset increases to minimum wage.