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Ontario’s fiscal update projects deficit at $14.5 billion as province slashes watchdogs, creates tax-cut

Ontario’s path back to fiscal balance won’t be easy, the province’s finance minister says, as he revealed the deficit now stands at $14.5 billion, a reduction of $500 million since the Progressive Conservative government took office in June.

In the province’s first fiscal update introduced on Thursday, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said the government is committed to balancing the books in a “reasonable” time frame – but provided no details as to when that would happen.

Still, Mr. Fedeli says the province has saved an additional $3.2 billion in program expenses by reducing spending, including cancelling planned tax increases and the previous Liberal government’s cap-and-trade program. However, the government also revealed that cancelling cap and trade cost Ontario $1.5-billion in lost revenues during the current fiscal year, and the fiscal watchdog has said it would lead to a loss of $3-billion in revenue over four years.

The province is also axing three oversight officers, with the fate of their staff unknown. The environment commissioner will be rolled into the auditor general’s office, government officials said, and the French-language commissioner and provincial children’s advocate will be part of the ombudsman’s office, by May 2019.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government is also promising a new tax cut for low-income workers making less than $30,000 a year, a variation on Mr. Ford’s election promise to end income taxes to every worker making minimum wage.

Called the Low-Income Individuals and Families Tax credit, or LIFT, the initiative would provide some 1.1 million workers up to $850 in personal income tax relief and $1,700 for couples, the government said, ensuring a single person who works full-time at minimum wage pays no personal income tax.

The government is also eliminating rent control on new rental units to increase housing supply across the province, but says rent control will remain in place for current tenants. The new policy will be a reversal of sorts from an initiative the previous Liberal government put in place, which imposed rent control on all buildings constructed after 1991.

Read more: Ontario’s fiscal update projects deficit at $14.5 billion as province slashes watchdogs, creates tax-cut

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