Ontario's Conservative government, presenting its first budget on Thursday, forecast a smaller deficit for the Canadian province in the current fiscal year and a return to balance by 2023-24 as it disclosed plans to reverse the growth in spending. And instead of a quick road to budget balance, Mr. Fedeli's plan is to get there gradually, over five years. "These are numbers that you can trust".
"Balancing the budget requires discipline, determination and an appetite to take a different approach to government", Fedeli said.
These savings would be a welcome change for many Ontario drivers as auto insurance rates in the province have been among the highest in Canada for almost a decade now. "The province has agreed and has indicated they're going to move in the direction to broaden out the requirements to allow those jobs to be considered to help us to attract immigrants to places like Thunder Bay and Northern Ontario".
Following longstanding conventions, the budget was unveiled in advance to media under embargo in a lockup that lifted after the markets closed in the afternoon.
For example, when National Observer asked for a breakdown of cuts to justice services such as legal aid, a Ford staffer said that the ministry would have answers, but then failed to provide those answers.
What the Ford government was facing - thanks to recent changes in accounting rules that pumped up the deficit, last year's Liberal profligacy and its own tax cuts, including scrapping almost $2-billion a year in cap-and-trade revenue - was a budget shortfall in the year just ended of $11.7-billion.
The budget constrains spending growth, and shows cuts in post-secondary and social services, but is still almost $5 billion larger than the last budget from the previous Liberal government. It is projected to rise to 40.7 percent in 2019-20, before dipping to 38.6 percent in 2023-24. The ministry is responsible for the government's Driving Prosperity plan to deal with the changing face of Ontario's automotive sector.
Opposition parties noted the budget cuts $1 billion from the children and social services budget.
Among big spending announcements by the government of Premier Doug Ford was the introduction of the Ontario Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit for families with low to moderate incomes.
An amendment to legislation will cap compensation for the pain and suffering of victims of crime at $5,000 and increase the maximum possible payout to $30,000, from $25,000 previously.
It says on average, eligible families will receive about $1,250 in new child-care support through the program, which is expected to cost roughly $390 million each year.
Some changes to the regulation of alcohol are also included in the budget.
"We were braced for deep cuts, but no one was prepared for the level of irresponsibility and outright cruelty in Ford's budget", said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
"I think it will cause a lot of rear-ending", she joked. "It's a bad budget". That's why the 2019 budget contains no new tax increases.
Drastic and widespread cuts that many had feared did not materialize in this budget, but the path to balance shows that much of the heavy lifting comes at the halfway mark to the next election, and after it. Will it bring perceptible cuts to public services?
The Ford government not only reiterated its commitment to expand the sale of beer and wine to corner stores, and allow tailgating at sporting events, but also introduced a number of new initiatives that could turn Ontario into the unofficial party province.
The budget says the government "has already reduced the size of the Ontario Public Service by 3.5 per cent through voluntary attrition alone".
The budget commits to a multi-year reform of Ontario's auto insurance industry.
The Greens' Schreiner said he was surprised by a lack of financial detail relating to transit, given the Ford government had a day earlier announced a major transit plan for Toronto.