Ontario records $5.9B deficit for the last fiscal year

By Allison Jones in Toronto

Ontario ended the last fiscal year with a smaller deficit than projected in the 2022 budget, but it was several billion dollars higher than in a fiscal update from the province six weeks ago.

Treasury Board President Caroline Mulroney and Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy released the province’s public accounts for 2022-23 on Wednesday – which looks at the final numbers for the last fiscal year – and it showed the province ended the year with a $5.9 billion deficit.

That was lower than the $19.9 billion deficit projected in the government’s 2022 budget for that fiscal year. 

The ministers said the decrease was mainly due to higher taxation revenues, particularly in corporate taxes and sales tax, reflecting higher-than-expected inflation and strong economic growth.

In mid-August, however, Bethlenfalvy had released the province’s first-quarter finances, which pegged the 2022-23 deficit at $2.2 billion.

He said Wednesday that the change in those figures was “reasonable.” 

“First off, that deficit is one of the smallest changes in deficits to what we forecasted over the last six years,” he said. 

“The last five years and certainly through COVID have been more challenging, if I can say, to forecast revenues and expenditures. So I think that small of a delta, a change, is pretty reasonable, frankly. Also, I’ve said many times, we’ve got to make sure that as we come out of COVID, that we continue to fortify our health-care system, that we continue to build infrastructure.”

Ontario spent significantly more money in 2022-23 than in the previous year – $198.8 billion compared to $183 billion. The government said expenses are higher in children’s and social services, and education due to higher demand. 

Health spending was $1.4 billion lower than the plan in the budget, mainly due to lower public demand for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, the government said.

“The Public Accounts confirm that our government is delivering on its plan to build and providing services where they are needed most,” Mulroney said. 

“This includes affordable housing, transit, highways, hospitals, long-term care homes, schools and daycares.”

In the last public accounts, the government showed it ended 2021-22 with a $2.1 billion surplus, a far cry from the $33-billion deficit projected in the 2021 budget.

Banner image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2023.

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