Ontario finance minister says budget will not be balanced 'at expense of critical programs'
Finance Minister Vic Fedeli says the province’s upcoming budget will strike a balance between controlling spending while protecting critical programs.
Speaking at the Empire Club of Canada on Thursday, Fedeli tried to dampen fears that the fiscally-focused government will make deep cuts to the $161 billion budget when the spending document is tabled on April 11.
“We will not balance the budget at the expense of our critical programs,” Fedeli told a business crowd at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
However, Fedeli cautioned that the government is focused on reining in what it claims is a $13.5 billion deficit, telling the crowd that getting “Ontario’s books in order” is a priority.
“If we don’t get our spending under control, we won’t be able to protect the public services we rely on each and every day,” Fedeli said, suggesting funding for hospitals, schools and other critical services could otherwise be in jeopardy.
The government has steadily been making cuts to the two biggest line items in the budget – healthcare and education.
Earlier this year, the PC’s ushered in a massive transformation of the healthcare sector, collapsing several health agencies such as E-Health, Heath Quality Ontario, Cancer Care Ontario, the Trillium Gift of Life Network, and 14 Local health integration networks, into a centralized super agency.
The upcoming budget could reveal exactly how much the move will shave off the nearly $62 billion cost of Ontario’s healthcare system.
Similarly, the province has announced a one per cent cut to the education budget which could result in a nearly $300 million reduction in education spending.
To achieve that, the government will increase class sizes in high schools automatically, reducing the number of teachers required.
Fedeli said while his first budget will rely on deficit spending, the document will announce a path to balance.