Ford government reports $2B surplus in last fiscal year, despite projected deficit

By Richard Southern and John Marchesan

The Ford government says it ended the 2021-22 fiscal year with a $2.1 billion surplus.

Government officials say the surplus will be used used to help reduce the province’s net debt, which is about $380 billion.

Last month, when the government re-tabled its almost $200 billion budget that was initially introduced before the provincial election, they had projected a deficit of $13.5 billion for this fiscal year.

The surplus is a result of revenues that were 20 per cent higher than the 2021 budget forecast, largely coming from taxes, due to higher-than-expected inflation and nominal GDP growth more than five points higher than the average private sector forecast at the time of the budget, the government said.

“When we prepared our budget for the 21-22 fiscal year, jurisdictions around the world were still facing many unknowns, and the economic impact was still uncertain,” said Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy, who called 2021-22 “an extraordinary year.”

“We now have a clearer picture of how the pandemic impacted the economy in the previous fiscal year.”

Actual government spending in the fiscal year that ended in March was $2.5 billion lower than the budget spending plan, including $1.4 billion lower in education, which officials say is partly due to the end of time-limited COVID-19 supports and partly due to less fundraising in schools and not as many community rentals of school space.

Health spending was higher than planned, mostly due to money that went to hospitals and long-term care homes to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and on the vaccination strategy.

Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said he plans to introduce legislation which will prevent MPPs from getting raises, something that would be automatically triggered when the government ends the year with a surplus.

The government says it is also plans to increase funding for tutoring supports to parents by $140 million, which would bring the total investments to parents this year to over $365 million. However, there are still no details on when parents will receive the money or how much they can expect to receive.

The opposition NDP slammed the Ford government for underspending on services that families count on.

“At hospitals, people were waiting hour after hour in pain while health-care workers were run off their feet and unable to give comfort to the sick and injured. Doug Ford had the money to help, and he just sat on it,” said NDP Finance critic Catherine Fife.

“While crowding in our kids’ classrooms was getting worse, and families were begging for more mental health supports, Ford was raking in dough, and sitting on it. While workers had their wages frozen behind inflation and were making tough choices, Ford was watching government coffers grow.

“This surplus is a shocking reminder that the Conservatives just don’t think it’s their job to help people.”

The Conservatives say they plan to provide a fall economic statement by November 15.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

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