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Sousa promises help for first-time home buyers

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa was tight-lipped on what action he would take when he tables a mini-budget Monday at Queen's Park.
Nov. 8, 2016
By Robert Benzie

Finance Minister Charles Sousa is signalling that help for new home buyers will be a cornerstone of Monday's fall economic statement.

Sousa stressed the Ontario government “will be taking different measures to address housing affordability” than British Columbia's 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers.

“Housing affordability is ... an area of concern for many - especially for first-time home buyers right here in the GTA,” he told a Canadian Club luncheon Tuesday at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

“Growth in residential real estate values has been good for our economy and has allowed home owners to build up their financial security. The price point, however, has also made it harder for someone starting out to own a home.”

Sousa was tight-lipped on what action he would take when he tables a mini-budget Monday at Queen's Park - including whether there would be a land-transfer tax rebate for first-time home buyers.

That was a popular initiative by former finance minister Ernie Eves under then Progressive Conservative premier Mike Harris in 1999.

But Sousa did say Monday's fiscal update would boast legislation establishing a new “financial services regulatory authority (to) modernize and strengthen regulation of financial services and pensions.”

“It will be more consumer-focused,” the treasurer said.

Despite a warning last week by the Financial Accountability Office that the auditor general's recent accounting changes would make it difficult to balance the books, Sousa promised to eliminate the deficit next year.

"I am confident that we have made - and are making - the right choices to bring our province back to balance,” he said.

This comes in the face of Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk's surprise announcement last month that $10.7 billion in the government's stake in two co-sponsored public pension funds should no longer be counted as asset.

Her move - which provincial bureaucrats, political aides, and some accounting experts dispute - is the equivalent of a $1.5 billion hit to the treasury's bottom line this year.