UPDATE 1-Ex-banker Sousa named Ontario finance minister

Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:58pm EST

* Charles Sousa is former RBC banker, cabinet minister

* Liberals stick with 2017-18 target for balanced budget

By Claire Sibonney

TORONTO, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Ontario's new Liberal premier, Kathleen Wynne, has chosen former banker and cabinet minister Charles Sousa to become the province's next finance minister.

Wynne's office made the announcement during the cabinet's swearing-in ceremony on Monday.

The selection of her former leadership rival Sousa for the high-profile portfolio was widely expected, especially after Sousa endorsed Wynne at the party's leadership convention last month.

Wynne, who replaces outgoing premier Dalton McGuinty, is set to become Ontario's first female leader, and the country's first openly gay premier.

Sousa worked at the Royal Bank of Canada for more than 20 years before entering politics. He served under McGuinty as the provincial minister of immigration. He also held the labor portfolio and was the minister in charge of the 2015 Pan American Games.

Wynne issued a statement saying that the new government is committed to the province's existing budget plan, designed to eliminate the province's deficit by the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Sousa's first major challenges will be crafting the upcoming 2013-14 budget - expected in the spring - and getting it passed through the minority legislature.

The centrist Liberals need support from at least one of the opposition parties, the left-leaning New Democrats or the right-wing Conservatives, in order to avoid a snap election and stay in power.

"Jobs, the economy and a fair society are the priorities for this new government, and we intend to work with the opposition parties to make progress on these important priorities," Wynne said in the statement.

Sousa, 54, replaces Dwight Duncan, the former deputy premier who had been finance minister for the last seven years.

The Liberals said last month they expect an C$11.9 billion ($11.88 billion) budget deficit in 2012-13. The province has been under pressure from ratings agencies and was downgraded by Moody's last year.

The government responded with a pledge to curb spending growth, which has led to conflicts with teachers and other unionized workers in the province.

Ontario accounts for roughly 40 percent of Canadian gross domestic product and is among the largest sub-national borrowers in the world, issuing bonds worth nearly C$35 billion in 2012.

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