* Charles Sousa is former RBC banker, cabinet minister
* Liberals stick with 2017-18 target for balanced budget
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, Feb 11 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
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
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.