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Ontario axes 3 government watchdogs, ends some rent control

Last Updated Nov 15, 2018 at 7:32 pm EDT

Ontario announced a tax credit for low-income earners, an end to rent control in new buildings and the closure of three government watchdog offices in its fall fiscal update, entitled A Plan for the People.

The province also said it has cut the deficit by $500 million to $14.5 billion for 2018-2019, although it does not lay out a timeline to balance the books.

Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said government has saved $3.2 billion by reducing spending, but the deficit is only a half billion smaller because revenue will be less.

“The magnitude of our fiscal challenge is real. It will require difficult decisions as we work to get Ontario’s finances back on track,” Fedeli said.

“This government believes balancing the budget and reducing Ontario’s debt burden is not only a fiscal imperative, it is a moral one. The previous government spent well beyond its means, creating a structural deficit that is unsustainable. Doing nothing is not an option — we need to spend smarter and reinvent government.”

The Tories say the previous Liberal government left a $15-billion deficit, a figure disputed by critics who say it includes spending promised by the Liberals but cancelled by the current regime.

The government is also introducing the Low-income Individuals and Families Tax (LIFT) Credit. Most making $30,000 or less will pay no income tax. This means up to $850 in savings for low-income earners.

On housing, the government is doing away with rent control on new buildings, but leaving it in place for existing ones.

Hours for alcohol sales will be extended at the Beer Store, LCBO and grocery stores from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. Gone are the restricted Sunday hours. The government says it will also develop a plan to sell beer and wine in corner stores, but has not provided a timeline. It’s not something the government expects will add to revenue.

On transit, the government says it will develop a plan to upload the TTC subway to the province, but again has not said when that will happen.

Doug Ford’s government is eliminating the positions of environmental commissioner, French language services commissioner, and provincial advocate for children and youth.

The ombudsman will take over those responsibilities.

The government will also give Toronto $25 million over four years to fight guns and gangs.

Cynthia Mulligan spoke one-on-one with Vic Fedeli about key issues within the province’s fall economic outlook. Watch below.

With a file from The Canadian Press