Ontario faces ‘tough choice’ down the road

Finance minister Jim Flaherty yesterday announced the Ontario government is on track to balance this year’s budget—despite recent economic pressures—but that tough choices will need to be made in the future.
“This government will not surrender the hard-won gains that have restored Ontario to prosperity,” said Flaherty. “I want to assure the people of Ontario that, because of the premier’s leadership and their hard work, Ontario is better prepared than ever to weather a period of economic uncertainty.
“We remain on track for a balanced budget for 2001-02,” he noted.
Because of prudent fiscal planning, the province included a reserve of $1 billion in the spring budget. “We will use $300 million to balance the budget this year, leaving us with a $700 million reserve,” Flaherty explained.
Meanwhile, Flaherty gave Ontario’s low- and middle-income working families an early holiday present, proposing to assist these families by providing a one-time, tax-free payment of $100 per child under age seven.
The payments are designed to offset some of the challenges faced by low- and middle-income working families during the current global economic slowdown.
“We know that a slowing economy is especially hard on lower-income parents. We value their hard work and their dedication to raising their families,” Flaherty said.
“The tax cuts in the spring budget will remove 75,000 lower-income earners from the tax rolls so they can keep more of their hard-earned money.”
About 220,000 families with 367,000 children would share an estimated $37 million in benefits.
The average payment would be around $165 per family and, if legislation is passed promptly, the payments would be sent out by early December.
“It is our goal to get these payments in the hands of families in time for December holiday shopping,” Flaherty said. “This would give these parents some extra help to do what they do best–care for their children.”
Also yesterday, Flaherty announced a new $10-million plan to boost Ontario’s tourism industry.
The $10 million is in addition to the $4 million marketing strategy announced by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Recreation last month. This new money will help the industry attract more people to this great province.
“This campaign has two parts,” Flaherty said. “The first, ‘Come Stay with Friends,’ is aimed at our neighbouring states; and the second, ‘Pride in Ontario,’ is designed to encourage Ontario residents to help make us for the drop in international visits by travelling in our own attractive and exciting province.”
Flaherty encouraged families that might be thinking of a winter break to consider events right here in Ontario.
“The people of this province can play a role in boosting the economy,” he argued. “If we pull together, our individual actions can make a big difference.”
Flaherty acknowledged Ontario’s economy has slowed, noting private-sector forecasters—on average—now expect Ontario’s economy to grow 1.1 percent this year and 1.3 percent next year.
They also expect Ontario’s growth to pick up in mid-2002 and accelerate to 4.3 percent in 2003.