Taxpayers are likely to be paying more after Finance Minister Greg Sorbara unveils the Ontario Liberals' first budget this afternoon. And they can thank a deficit the Liberals say has grown to as much as $8 billion.
Sorbara will read his budget speech in the Legislature to an attentive audience of groups advocating for more public funding and critics demanding that he hold the line on taxes. Watching from the sidelines is a general public that voted for both those policies in last October's provincial election.
The Liberals under Premier Dalton McGuinty are expected to move to deliver on a promise to improve public services. And they are expected to reveal the final amount of the deficit they inherited from the former Conservative government as well as what the books will look like for their first fiscal year in office.
Former provincial auditor Erik Peters pegged the shortfall from last year (fiscal 2003-04) at $5.6 billion, although the Liberals have said that when hospital and children's aid societies' debt is included, the real deficit for last year is closer to $8 billion. The total provincial budget will exceed $71 billion.