In the fall economic statement tabled today, the Ontario government said it would spend more than it had planned on health care, education and social services, while shrinking the province’s deficit faster than projected, citing a strong economy.
The new spending comes after months of controversy over government cuts – to public health, ambulances and child care – that public-opinion polls suggest harmed the popularity of Premier Doug Ford.
Ontario’s projected deficit for 2019-2020 is $9-billion, $1.3-billion lower than the $10.3-billion predicted in April’s budget.
The Ontario Premier had five separate private dinners with business executives who paid $20,000 each at a charity auction. Two of the companies that secured access to Ford were also lobbying to do business with the province, while a third – a real estate developer – asked for a meeting to discuss Ontario Place following the dinner.
The dinners aren’t subject to political fundraising rules since the funds went to a charity, in this case to Victim Services Toronto after an auction at the Toronto Police Chief’s fundraiser.
But observers say that while the money went to charity, the practice still raises ethical concerns because it’s akin to trading cash for access.