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Ontario Deficit Pegged At $20 Billion

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan during a press conference on October 21, 2009. CITYNEWS.

We’re about to find out just how hard the global recession has been on Ontario’s economy.

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan delivers his economic update on Thursday, and he and Premier Dalton McGuinty have been hinting that the news isn’t good.

“There are many defenders of the status quo. I think our world has changed,” McGuinty said in a press conference.

And from Duncan: “We do have to begin looking at the post-recession era, the post-stimulus era. How do we get back to balance. We have not drawn any conclusions yet.”

He added that Ontario’s current deficit is pegged at roughly $20 billion – $1.5 billion more than originally projected. On top of that, he warned recovery will be a “long, slow grind.”

Many fear that could mean a cut in public services.

The recession hit Ontario harder and earlier than other provinces. Stimulus spending on infrastructure, auto bailouts and trying to shore up manufacturing and exports during a period of high unemployment added to the red ink.

The opposition says the government has squandered its advantages.

“He had all kinds of money coming in through increased taxes. But he frittered it all away,” charged Tory leader Tim Hudak. “And when times got tough, the cupboard was bare.”

The 2010 budget, due in the spring, will outline the McGuinty government’s priorities, one of which will include tax reform.