Ontario to get out of a deep "fiscal hole" will not be easy, the progressive conservative government warned on Thursday that it announced plans to remove three independent supervisors, end political party subsidies and stop the development of a French university other measures.
The cuts provided in the Government's Fall Economic Decline for 2018-2019 – its first major fiscal update since the takeover of power in June – helped Tories laugh $ 500 million off the provincial deficit of $ 15 billion.
However, the government did not have a timetable for the moment when it returned to balance, although it maintained its promise to do so.
"The tax hole is profound," Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said. "The front road is not an easy one and will require difficult decisions. Everyone in the province will have to make sacrifices."
Tories earlier this year concluded that they were left with a $ 15 billion shortfall by the former liberal government. The figure was disputed by critics who say it includes spending promised by liberals but canceled by the current regime.
Fedeli, however, claimed that the figure was not swollen.
"It's a real deficit," he said. "The challenge that awaits us is real."
The government said it had made progress in reducing the deficit to $ 3.2 billion in operating efficiency. But he also said he earned less $ 2.7 billion in revenue in the fiscal year – including $ 1.5 billion attributed to the cancellation of the ceiling and trade, and $ 308 million attributed to the cancellation of planned tax cuts.
Amongst the belt constraints it has set, the government has said it will occupy the positions of three independent officers – the environment commissioner, the child and youth attorney and the French language commissioner – in the general or provincial auditor's offices of the ombudsman.
Fedeli could not say what will happen to those who work in the removed offices, but Prime Minister Doug Ford has consistently promised that no jobs will be lost as a result of cost reductions.
Ontario's Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, Irwin Elman, said he was shocked to discover the government's plan to cut off his office without formal notice. He called the "dangerous" plan and asked the province to reconsider.
Plans for a French university were also canceled, although the government could not immediately say how much money would save this move.
The government also maintains the freezing of public service engagements and the ending of taxpayer subsidies to political parties in Ontario, a measure created by liberals after the rules on fundraising have broken.
The tax update has led to welcome news for low-income people, promising to remove the provincial tax for those earning less than $ 30,000 a year.
The government said the measure – which is expected to cost 495 million dollars a year in lost revenue – offsets the decision to eliminate a planned increase in the province's minimum wage, which was due to take effect next year.
However, critics have said that raising the minimum wage to $ 15 per hour, as the liberals have planned, would give less income workers more money than income tax cuts. An independent financial analysis came to a similar conclusion.
The government also said it would exempt new housing units from rents as a way to boost the construction of new units. In 2017, the liberals closed a loophole in rent controls that exempt any buildings built after 1991. Before that, the owners could raise the rent on any of those units.
The Tax Update is committed to expanding its operating hours at Beer Store and LCBO stores, allowing them to open seven days a week until 11:00.
PND leader Andrea Horwath said the Ford government has made life more difficult for many in the province and criticized in particular rent control measures.
"Doug Ford and his government actually tell the Ontarians that they have to quote" tighten their belts, "she said." The Ontarians have already stifled belts, that's the message they have been sending for a very long time. "
The party's green party, Mike Schreiner, said the fiscal update was more about strengthening power than saving money.
"Premier Ford's attack on controls and balances of government responsibility is scandalous," he said. "It's bad for people and democracy"
One of the observers said the tax plan suggests that the government is giving up "heavy choices" to what extent it can cut costs.
"We have a government that has not really come out in its decision about how it will balance its desire to balance the budget … with the desire to cut taxes and, at the same time, the desire to spend new money in a series of different areas, "said Peter Graefe, professor of political science at McMaster University in Hamilton.
Strengthening more independent overseas offices could be "a lot of theater" that does not save too much, he said.
"It has to signal that it is a government that wants to reduce things, although it has not yet decided the tough things," Graefe said. "Secondly, I think it is in line with the notion that there should be no kind of institutions between what the people voted in terms of government and the government's ability to do things."
Shawn Jeffords and Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
Note for Readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly said the government lost more than $ 300,000 in revenue due to the cancellation of planned tax increases. In fact, he's losing $ 308 million.