Mayor John Tory stands firm on low taxes in the face of massive budget shortfall, declining city services
The Ontario government is failing to meet its constitutional requirement to meet its financial obligations, according to a report from the province’s auditor general.
The report is a scathing rebuke for the Liberal government, the Ontario Liberals and Premier Kathleen Wynne, whose government has run a deficit of $7.9 billion since 2015, but has received less than $3 billion in tax revenues since coming to office in the summer of 2013.
“Government’s fiscal performance in past years, and in the current one, is not sustainable over the long term,” says the report, to be released on June 26.
“The government should immediately take steps to reduce its operating expenditures and fund other needs,” reads the report obtained by the Star via Access to Information, which can be read in full below.
The annual report finds that the Ontario NDP’s government’s fiscal performance has been “materially below,” the benchmark “for the past three financial years,” under the “most stringent set of accounting assumptions applied by the auditor.” The deficit has been growing, going from about $1 billion in 2013 — before the NDP took over in 2011 — to $7.9 billion in 2019, the latest year for which figures are available. The numbers only account for the previous year.
If the deficit — which is largely a result of rising health-care costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic — is left to grow, as the government is planning to do, it will have reached $14.4 billion by the end of 2021.
That would represent a significant increase over the government’s projected fiscal deficit of $9.2 billion for 2020-21, or $14.2 billion over the two years.
The report says there are “many reasons” for the deficit, including “a slowdown in economic growth” and the pandemic, followed by “deterioration in household balance sheets.”
“In addition, we have identified weaknesses in our fiscal policy and management” — a point that the auditor general noted in the report to be “particularly concerning,” since the government’s fiscal deficit projection was an “inherently challenging exercise for