THUNDER BAY, Ont.—Ontario’s Liberals are promising to go ahead and spend $1 billion to build a transportation route to the Ring of Fire mineral deposit, with or without financial help from the federal Conservatives.
But they haven’t decided where or when they’ll start building it, or how they’ll find another $1 billion to complete the route in a remote region of northern Ontario if Ottawa won’t provide the funds.
They say those decisions will be up to a development corporation they’ll create within 60 days of taking office which will include both levels of government, First Nations and private companies.
The decree came as the Liberal party fleshed out details of what would have been their 2014 budget had an election not been forced by Andrea Horvath and the provincial NDP.
Premier Kathleen Wynne, some union leaders and NDP supporters have slammed New Democrat leader Horwath for refusing to support the budget, saying they could have supported many of the measures it contained.
However, the Liberals had planned to spend $12.5 billion more than they take in this year, up from $11.3 billion last year and the $10.1 billion projected in their 2013 budget.
Spending was forecast to jump by $3.4 billion this year, $900 million more than projected in the 2013 budget, with program spending expected to climb by nearly $3 billion to $119.4 billion.
That’s going to help push up the province’s net debt by $20.1 billion to $289.3 billion this year, a staggering 40 per cent of gross domestic product.
Economists noted that Ontario’s current ratio of nearly 39 per cent is almost 50 per cent higher than it was six years ago, creating a “longer-term vulnerability” for the province.
Moody’s Investments Service said the planned increase in deficits for 2014-15 and 2015-16 “represents a credit negative for the province.”