Ontario set to introduce budget that will serve as election platform


Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government is introducing its budget today, which is set to stand as its election platform and includes new promises on widening Highway 401.

A senior government source says the plan is to adjourn the legislature after the budget is tabled, which means it won’t get passed before the expected start of the election campaign next week.

Senior government sources say the budget will have five themes, one of which is building highways and hospitals and comes with a plan of spending $158 billion over 10 years.

Of that planned spending, $21.5 billion would be for highway planning, expansion and rehabilitation and would include a new twin bridge over the Welland Canal on the Queen Elizabeth Way and widening Highway 401 in eastern Ontario starting in Pickering and Oshawa.

The government has recently made a raft of hospital spending announcements, including more than $2.1 billion for projects across the province.

The sources say the other four themes of the budget are rebuilding the economy, workers, keeping costs down for people, and a plan to stay open.

Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy touched on many of those themes in a recent speech, saying “Ontario’s Renaissance is here.”

“When our grandchildren and great-grandchildren look at their own maps of Ontario, they will be amazed by how much we built in the 2020s,” he said.

He stressed investments in highways, transit, jobs training, manufacturing and health care. The government also recently announced it would spend an additional $1 billion in home care over three years.

Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office released a report earlier this month saying the province is currently on track to balancing its budget by next year, but that spending plans could well change due to the looming election.

A new party could be in power after June 2, and even if the Progressive Conservatives win re-election, they have not given a recent update on when they will seek to eliminate the deficit.

The FAO projected the 2021-22 deficit to be $8.7 billion, below the $13.1 billion that the government forecasted when Bethlenfalvy released the third-quarter finances earlier this year.

At that time, the government projected the net debt to be $395 billion.

The budget was originally supposed to be tabled by March 31, but the government amended legislation to delay it, a move it said would provide more time to assess the impacts of pandemic recovery.