QUEEN'S PARK -- Premier Doug Ford says his next budget, set to be tabled on Mar. 25, will be "fiscally prudent" and will use increased revenues to pay down the province's deficit.

During a fireside chat in Kitchener, Ont. the premier briefly spoke about the Progressive Conservative’s upcoming spending plan – which he says was delivered to his Etobicoke home over the weekend by the Ontario Provincial Police. 

“It’s going to be a fiscally prudent budget,” Ford hinted without going into detail because of legal restrictions. 

Ford also said the government was able to pay down the province’s $8-billion deficit by a “considerable amount” largely thanks to stronger income tax and sales tax revenues. 

“I can’t tell you the exact amount, but it’s in the billions,” Ford said.

Doug Ford

Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer (FAO) recently estimated that the government may post a $6.1-billion deficit later this month if the current trend of underspending continues. 

The FAO discovered that in the first nine months of the fiscal year the government spent $2-billion less than it budgeted. Finance Minister Rod Phillips said, last week, the budget will have a more updated snapshot of how taxpayers dollars are being spent. 

Ford said his government is still on pace to balancing the budget in 2023 – the year after the next provincial election. Ford said he had a choice to balance the budget earlier, but decided it wasn’t “realistic” because it would have “hurt people.”

Billboards to generate revenue

Ford also suggested that the government might look into erecting billboards along the 400-series highways as a way of creating another revenue stream for the province. 

Ford pointed to the Interstate-75 – commonly known as the I-75 – which stretches from the Canada-United States border to the state of Florida as an example of how roadside advertising could be a money-maker. 

“You go down I-75, you see these signs everywhere. You go down the 401, the 400-series highways you see very little signs,” Ford said. 

“That would create a couple hundred million more for the province that we could allocate for education [or] transportation.”

The premier called it a “no-brainer” and said just a “few signs along the 400” could generate new money allowing the government to balance its books and pay for services without having to increase taxes.