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Ont. expects $18B deficit over 2 years – Metro US

Ont. expects $18B deficit over 2 years

Ontario is awash in red ink, with an $18-billion shortfall over two years, including a record one-year deficit to be projected in the upcoming budget, says Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.

In a surprise move, Duncan yesterday revealed the sobering figure more than three weeks before the March 26 budget. “The world is a very different place than it’s been in the past. We thought that getting the ballpark range was an appropriate thing to do,” he told reporters following a speech to a joint Empire and Canadian Club luncheon.

While the finance minister refused to disclose a breakdown of the deficit figures for the fiscal year ending March 31 or for 2009-10, he acknowledged the upcoming shortfall would exceed the $12.4-billion record set by the 1992 budget introduced by NDP finance minister Floyd Laughren.

However, he said that there would be no new tax hikes as there were under the New Democrats in the early 1990s.

The $18 billion is a combined deficit tally for 2008-09, which the government projected in November would have a shortfall of just $500 million, and for 2009-10.

Duncan said the ballooning deficit is due to the worldwide financial crisis, which has led to declining tax revenues and forced the province to help Ottawa bail out General Motors of Canada and Chrysler Canada and pay more toward federal infrastructure programs.

Yesterday, Premier Dalton McGuinty appeared to suggest the government wants to get the deficit tally out of the way so the good news in the budget can filter out to the public on March 26.

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