Ontario’s fiscal watchdog says the reopening of businesses over the summer improved its financial outlook for the province, but warns a second lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic could slow the province’s economic recovery next year.
The Financial Accountability Office says the economic reopening was earlier and broader than it expected, and as a result, the agency now projects Ontario’s real gross domestic product will decline by 6.8 per cent this year, rather than the nine per cent it forecast in the spring.
It says that assuming the pandemic remains relatively contained, the province’s economic growth is expected to “rebound strongly” next year – but the reintroduction of significant COVID-19 restrictions could hamper that.
In a report released today, the agency also predicts Ontario will face a $37.2 billion deficit for 2020-21, but notes the province has yet to allocate more than $9 billion in program spending, and any unused contingency funds would “substantially reduce” the deficit.
Premier Doug Ford says the province plans on spending the unallocated money and intends to tackle the deficit by spurring the economy and finding efficiencies, citing government procurement as an example.
He says his government no longer plans to balance the books by 2023-24 in light of the pandemic, saying it will instead “do it over a number of years and be thoughtful about it.”
“We’re going to make sure the number one priority is to get companies back on their feet, get families back on their feet,” Ford said in a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Ontario reported 783 new cases of COVID-19 and five new deaths related to the virus on Thursday, as well as 779 newly resolved cases.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said 239 of the new cases are in Toronto, 136 are in Peel Region, 127 are in York Region and 89 are in Ottawa.
Ontario has a total of 62,196 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 53,291 resolved cases and 3,022 deaths.
The province said it is has hired 100 new contact tracers to help track and isolate new cases of COVID-19. It plans to hire up to 500 more by mid-November.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2020.
The Canadian Press