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Wynne says no tax hikes needed to balance books

Premier Kathleen Wynne promises no new taxes.
Nov. 4, 2016
By Robert Benzie

Read her lips: no new taxes.

That was the message from Premier Kathleen Wynne on Friday despite a controversial accounting change that will make it more challenging for the Liberals to balance the books next year as promised.

“We’re not going to raise taxes on middle-class families,” Wynne told the Globe and Mail’s Robert Fife in a fireside chat at the Ontario Economic Summit in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“We’re not going to do anything that is going to harm people who are just feeling the benefits of some of the recovery.”

Her comments came the Financial Accountability Office warned that auditor general Bonnie Lysyk’s decision to no longer consider government co-sponsored pension funds as assets would affect the bottom line.

Lysyk - who, like all her predecessors dating back to 2001, counted the province’s stake in the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union Pension Plan and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan as assets last year - announced the accounting change last month.

The move, which is questioned by some experts, would effectively eliminate $10.7 billion in government assets.

On Thursday, the Financial Accountability Office said the change would mean a $5.2-billion deficit in 2016-17 and a $2.6-billion shortfall the following fiscal year.

Wynne’s government has been forecasting a $4.3-billion deficit for 2016-17 before returning to a surplus in 2017-18 in time for the June 2018 election.

The premier insisted the government will still balance the books on scheduled and promised a revised road map toward that when Finance Minister Charles Sousa tables the fall economic statement later this month.

Despite Friday’s pledge, Ontario consumers will still soon face some new levies, though these have been known for months.

As part of the government’s push to curb greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, gasoline prices will jump by 4.3 cents a litre in January and the average monthly natural gas bill with rise by $5 a household.