FIRST HOUSE CALL

On­tario mini-bud­get to in­clude help for first-time home buy­ers, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Charles Sousa says,

Toronto Star - - BUSINESS - ROBERT BENZIE

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Charles Sousa is sig­nalling that help for new home buy­ers will be a cor­ner­stone of Mon­day’s fall eco­nomic state­ment.

Sousa stressed the On­tario govern­ment “will be tak­ing dif­fer­ent mea­sures to ad­dress hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity” than Bri­tish Columbia’s 15 per cent tax on for­eign buy­ers.

“Hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity is . . . an area of con­cern for many — es­pe­cially for first-time home buy­ers right here in the GTA,” he told a Cana­dian Club lun­cheon Tues­day at the Fair­mont Royal York Ho­tel.

“Growth in res­i­den­tial real es­tate val­ues has been good for our econ­omy and has al­lowed home­own­ers to build up their fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity. The price-point, how­ever, has also made it harder for some­one start­ing out to own a home.”

Sousa was tight-lipped on what ac­tion he would take when he ta­bles a mini-bud­get Mon­day at Queen’s Park — in­clud­ing whether there would be a land-trans­fer tax re­bate for first-time home buy­ers.

That was a pop­u­lar ini­tia­tive by for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter Ernie Eves un­der then Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive premier Mike Harris in 1999.

But Sousa did say Mon­day’s fis­cal up­date would boast leg­is­la­tion es­tab­lish­ing a new “fi­nan­cial ser­vices reg­u­la­tory author­ity . . . (to) mod­ern­ize and strengthen reg­u­la­tion of fi­nan­cial ser­vices and pen­sions. “It will be more con­sumer­fo­cused,” he added.

De­spite a warn­ing last week by the Fi­nan­cial Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice that the au­di­tor gen­eral’s re­cent ac­count­ing changes would make it dif­fi­cult to bal­ance the books, Sousa promised to elim­i­nate the deficit next year.

“I am con­fi­dent that we have made — and are mak­ing — the right choices to bring our prov­ince back to bal­ance,” he said.

That flies in of the face of the sur­prise an­nounce­ment Au­di­tor Gen­eral Bon­nie Lysyk made last month that $10.7 bil­lion in the govern­ment’s stake in two co-spon­sored pub­lic pen­sion funds should no longer be counted as an as­set.

Her move — which pro­vin­cial bu­reau­crats, po­lit­i­cal aides, and some ac­count­ing ex­perts dis­pute — is the equiv­a­lent of a $1.5-bil­lion hit to the trea­sury’s bot­tom line.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Charles Sousa will ta­ble a mini-bud­get on Mon­day.

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