Doug Ford’s government spent $3.5 billion less than planned in first half of 2022-23: FAO

Premier Doug Ford’s government spent $3.5 billion less than planned in the first half of the fiscal year, according to the province’s budget watchdog.

In a 12-page report released on Tuesday, the Financial Accountability Office said the Progressive Conservatives spent $80.5 billion between April 1 and September 30.

But the Conservatives had planned to spend $84 billion over that period.

Overall health spending was $849 million lower than forecast, down 2.4%.

Spending on education was $413 million lower, down 3.3%.

Spending on children and social services was $244 million lower, down 2.7%.

Spending by colleges and universities was $99 million lower, down 3%.

Justice expenditures were $59 million lower, down 2.2%.

Other program spending was $1.75 billion lower than budgeted, down 12.5%.

But the FAO, which is an independent agent of the legislature, pointed out that the province’s overall spending plan for 2022-23 remains intact at $193 billion.

This suggests spending could come in the second quarters of 2022-23, so a precise picture will not be known until Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy releases his next budget by 31 March 2023.

Compared to the first half of 2021-22 — at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — spending rose 4.7%, or $3.6 billion, this fiscal year.

The FAO report comes two weeks after Bethlenfalvy forecast the government would run a $12.9 billion deficit this fiscal year.

This followed a surprise surplus of $2.1 billion in 2021-22 as Ontario emerged from the pandemic.

Treasury Board President Prabmeet Sarkaria is expected to comment on the FAO findings later on Tuesday.

The Conservatives are projecting an $8.1 billion deficit in 2023-24, but that deficit is expected to fall to $700 million in 2024-25, suggesting they could balance the books in time for the June provincial election 2026.

Robert Benzie is the bureau chief at Star’s Queen’s Park and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie


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