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Ontario set to unveil fall economic outlook

TORONTO — Ontario is set to unveil its fall economic outlook today as many in the province struggle to pay bills.

Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy says while there is plenty of uncertainty around the world, he is confident in Ontario’s economy.

He says the province will continue with its targeted approach to spending that gives Ontario some flexibility in uncertain times.

In the days leading up to the fall economic statement, the province announced it has scrapped the provincial portion of the harmonized sales tax on new purpose-built rental housing construction, will lower the age for regular breast cancer screenings and has extended the gas tax cut for another six months.

In August, Bethlenfalvy said the province expected to run a $1.3 billion deficit in the current fiscal year, followed by subsequent years of surplus budgets.

In September, the province announced it ended the 2022-23 fiscal year with a $5.9 billion deficit, down from the $19.9 billion deficit the government’s 2022 budget projected.

“This update will continue with our government’s targeted, responsible approach so we have the flexibility needed to get through this economic uncertainty while laying a strong foundation for future generations,” Bethlenfalvy said. 

“This is a challenging time. We should all be confident in Ontario’s economy, its workers and its people.”

The opposition want the province to consider solutions to bring financial relief to Ontarians as the affordability crisis deepens.

“We have a government that isn’t really moving forward on any actual measures within their jurisdiction to make life more affordable,” said Official Opposition and New Democrat Leader Marit Stiles.

“I’d like to see the government bring back real rent control.”

It’s a call echoed by interim Liberal Leader John Fraser.

“That’s going to help a lot,” he said. “We have people call every day who say my rent’s going up by double digits or eight per cent or 12 per cent and they’re not angry, they’re desperate, they cry.”

The Doug Ford government scrapped rent control on new builds beginning in 2018.

The province’s fall economic statement also comes as municipalities across the province are struggling with increasing homelessness, mental health and addictions and the financial effects of climate change.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario recently wrote to Ford to tell him that the “provincial-municipal fiscal framework is now broken.”

“In 2022, municipalities spent $3.8 billion more than they received in areas of provincial responsibility like social housing, long-term care, land ambulance, social services, and child care as a result of current cost sharing arrangements,” wrote Colin Best, association president and Halton Region councillor. 

“Municipalities cannot continue to subsidize the provincial government in the face of mounting pressures.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2023. 

The Canadian Press

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