The Ontario Liberal Party, which is releasing its election platform on Monday, is committing to balancing the province’s books a year earlier than projected in the Progressive Conservatives’ budget – even with Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca promising billions in additional spending on public transit, education and housing.
A senior Liberal campaign source said the party will commit to keeping the province’s finances on a “path to balance” that would see the government present a balanced budget in 2026-27, before the 2026 election. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the source because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the party platform.
The Globe was shown numbers from a costing plan that will be released with the platform on Monday. The plan will not actually lay out 2026-27 finances in detail. And it will say the province’s deficits both in 2023-24 and the year after would be larger under a Liberal government than they would be under the PC spending plan.
The Liberal Party says the extra spending is needed for time-limited measures to help the province recover from COVID-19. The source said a Liberal government would still keep the ratio of the province’s net debt to its gross domestic product below 42 per cent – which is the same as the PC target.
With 24 days to go before the June 2 vote, Mr. Del Duca is set to unveil his entire election platform in Toronto. The platform will contain hundreds of millions in promised new spending on housing initiatives, including for building tens of thousands of social and supportive housing units.
The Liberal Leader has already committed to spending $1.88-billion over the next two years to cut transit fares to $1 across the province – a plan the party has dubbed ”buck-a-ride” – and just over $1-billion a year to hire 10,000 teachers and cap class sizes at 20 students, among other pledges.
According to the numbers shown to The Globe, the Liberals’ 2022-23 projected deficit figure remains the same as the PCs’, at $19.9-billion. But the Liberals say their deficit in 2023-24 would be $3.56-billion higher than the one in the Conservative plan, at $15.86-billion, and $1.38-billion higher in 2024-25, at $8.98-billion. Both parties project $5-billion in red ink for the following year.
The Liberals are predicting larger deficits even though their projections rely on higher estimates for government revenue than those used by the PCs. Both the Auditor-General of Ontario and the province’s independent Financial Accountability Office (FAO) have said the PC government’s projections for corporate tax revenue are too low, and that provincial revenues have been growing more quickly than the government predicted as the economy has emerged from COVID-19.
The Liberals are using the FAO’s numbers, which project the government will bring in $12.9-billion more than assumed in the PCs’ proposed budget over the next five years. The Liberals will also say how they intend to spend much of the billions of dollars the PC budget has left unspent in large contingency funds.
Mr. Del Duca has already pledged to exempt prepared food that costs less than $20 from the provincial portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). (Currently only items under $4 are exempted.) And he has pledged to raise corporate taxes by one percentage point on profits over $1-billion, which would bring in $142-million a year; and to create a new 15.16-per-cent income tax bracket for taxable income over $500,000 a year, which would bring in more than $300-million. Mr. Del Duca has also pledged to scrap corporate taxes on small businesses that lost more than half their income during the pandemic, and to scale back taxes for others.
There are no other personal or corporate tax changes in the platform, the senior source said. But there are tax measures that target land speculators, which the party expects will bring in hundreds of millions a year. There is also a $44-million-a-year “Smoke-Free Ontario Recovery Fee,” to be levied on the tobacco industry.
According to the numbers shown to The Globe, the Liberals are assuming they could squeeze more money out of Ottawa in a renegotiation of Ontario’s child-care deal, which is worth $13.2-billion over six years. The Ontario Liberals are banking on getting an extra $2-billion out of the Liberal government in Ottawa for child care over the next four years. Ontario was the last province in Canada to sign a deal with the federal government to create a $10-a-day child-care system.
Other spending to be outlined in the platform includes $1-billion ($600-million this year and $400-million next year) to clear surgical backlogs created by cancellation of procedures during the pandemic. The PC government plans to spend $300-million this year on the backlog.
The Liberals are also pledging $1.74-billion in “transition funding” over the next three years to help businesses start providing the party’s promised 10 paid sick days. A new proposed portable benefits package for gig workers and others without health or other benefits would cost $285-million a year by 2024-25. (The PC government has set up a panel to study a similar proposal.)
The numbers show a price tag for Mr. Del Duca’s promise to end for-profit long-term care, an idea critics say wouldn’t create new beds but would require using public money to buy out private-sector owners of existing nursing homes.
The Liberals would dedicate funding, growing to $200-million a year by 2024-25, to what they call an “End For-Profit Long-Term Care Transition Fund.” Mr. Del Duca had declined to speculate on the cost of this measure when he announced it on April 26. He has also announced a commitment to expand home care to 400,000 more seniors, which would cost $1.84-billion a year by 2025-26.
Former Ontario associate deputy minister for finance Gabriel Sékaly, now with lobbying and consulting firm Strategy Corp., helped draw up the Liberals’ costing plan.
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