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Premier blasted over economy as legislature starts
TORONTO - Opposition calls to table an early budget in hopes of stimulating the economy and saving jobs were cast aside Tuesday by Premier Dalton McGuinty, who said getting the financial plan right is more important than rushing it out the door.
Even though Finance Minister Dwight Duncan had said his budget could be ready by the last week of February or early March, the government is now looking at late March.
"There's so many pieces that remain in motion with respect to the global economy, how that's impacting on us here in Canada and in Ontario," McGuinty said after announcing a $500-million investment in transit along with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"So for us to take a few more days to better understand the world that we're going into I think is the right thing to do."
The deficit, he added, "will be significant because we want to participate in a global, concerted effort to stimulate the economy."
The government came under fierce opposition attack Tuesday for their handling of the economy, as Opposition Leader Bob Runciman accused the Liberals of mismanaging the file for failing to bring down an early budget.
McGuinty's recent flip-flops and "erratic behaviour" show he's not up to the task, he said.
Duncan defended the budget timeline, saying the "numbers are changing as we speak."
"We don't know, for instance, the outcome of the automotive sector discussions," Duncan said Tuesday.
"That will clearly impact on the year ending -- it could impact on the next year depending on what's resolved -- so we added another week and a half to make sure that we lock down what I think will be a very important budget."
He insisted the delay wasn't a sign of worse news to come when the budget is finally delivered.
"Nothing's changed, other than we're delivering the budget about a week and a half later," Duncan said.
Before the holiday break, McGuinty had remained optimistic about the province's economy, saying his government had a five-point plan to deal with the crisis.
The premier's tune has changed in the last few weeks. McGuinty is now warning the province will face "multi-year" deficits starting with a "significant" shortfall in the upcoming budget.
The delayed budget shows McGuinty doesn't have plan, said NDP Leader Howard Hampton.
"Ontario is now way behind other jurisdictions in terms of responding to the recession, which means job losses will be worse," he said.
"If you're slow in terms of infrastructure, if you're slow in terms of a job stimulus package, the recession gets worse."