Jobs and growth will be focus of Ontario fall economic update: Sousa

TORONTO – Premier Kathleen Wynne says the Ontario government will make it easier for large pension funds to invest in public infrastructure projects in the province.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa will announce the changes when he delivers the annual fall economic statement this afternoon.

Wynne also told a Toronto conference on public-private partnerships that Ontario will launch 11 new infrastructure and real estate projects that she said could support more than 18,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, The Canadian Press has learned Sousa will also announce changes to lower taxes for one million low- and moderate-income investors who hold stocks that pay dividends.

Sources say Ontario will change the way dividend tax credits are calculated to save shareholders an average of $145 a year.

Investors who don’t pay Ontario’s income surtax, which kicks in at $70,000 income, will benefit from the higher dividend tax credits.

The initiative will be revenue neutral because about 100,000 higher income investors will pay more to offset the increased tax credits for others, including about 300,000 seniors.

Sousa will also outline how the province plans to stay on track to eliminate an $11.7-billion deficit by 2017-18 in his fall economic update, which he says will focus on jobs and growth.

Progressive Conservative finance critic Vic Fedeli is not convinced the government can balance the books in four years, and says the Liberals “are in la-la land” and won’t admit it’s their fault Ontario is in poor economic shape.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath wants Sousa to announce plans to create jobs and make life more affordable, and says she doesn’t want to see anything that increases taxes, tolls or fees.

“The government has said that they’re going to do that, so if we see those in the economic statement, I guess for once we’ll see the Liberals keeping one of their promises,” said Horwath. “But I don’t think it’s the right direction for Ontario. There are too many folks that are still struggling.”

Sousa wouldn’t say if he’ll provide an updated figure for the deficit, which came in at $9.2 billion last year but was projected to rise to about $11.7 billion this year. He said the Liberals would not slash programs and services or impose big tax hikes.

“We can ascribe to greater, massive across-the-board cuts, but that would hinder our recovery,” said Sousa. “At the same time, we can’t do reckless taxes that are going to deter business from investing, so we’ve got to find that balance, continue creating jobs and promote growth.”

The Conservatives, who keep trying to force an election to defeat the minority Liberal government, said the governing party is dreaming if it thinks it can eliminate the deficit simply through growth.

“The Bank of Canada only two weeks ago told us growth was not going to happen in 2013 or 2014, so they just will not admit that we’re in trouble in Ontario and that it’s their own doing,” said Fedeli. “We want to hear a jobs plan, and we just do not see it from this government.”

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.