Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli will table the Ford government's first budget on Thursday. Photo: Canadian PressClick image to enlarge

The Conservative government of Ontario Premier Doug Ford introduces its first budget at 4 p.m. on Thursday.

There are difficult choices to be made, says Conference Board of Canada director Matthew Stewart. “It will be important for them to release a credible plan to return their fiscal situation to a sustainable path. Acting quickly is imperative in light of elevated global risks."

According to Conference Board economist Daniel Fields, those risks include trade disputes, a sluggish Alberta economy that is impacting all other provinces, labour shortages and business reluctance to invest in machinery and equipment.

So far most commentary and predictions have focused on changes to the province’s education system, looming cuts to spending and balancing Ontario’s books, with little attention given to measures that are likely to impact the province’s manufacturing sector.

This week Ford announced plans to double the length of Toronto’s downtown transit “relief line” as part of a $28.5 billion transit plan, reports the Globe and Mail. But Conservative strategist Chad Rogers of Crestview Strategies told the Globe and Mail that Thursday’s budget will instead emphasize fulfilling Ford’s election promise to help the average citizen, with measures such as free dental care for low-income seniors and subsidies for day care.

The province has been in a deficit position since 2008–09, and 2018–19 is expected to continue this trend with an anticipated deficit of $14.5 billion, the Conference Board says. Over that same period, net debt has grown from $170 billion to $347 billion – faster than the economy has grown.

Ford says his government will lay out a “responsible” path to a balanced budget, but as Global News reports, critics are warning that deep cuts are on the way.

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