Budgeting 101

For a quick overview of the Budget, watch this video.

Descriptive transcript: Budget 101: What Is It?

To read the current Budget, check out Ontario.ca/budget for both electronic and print versions.

The financial cycle

The government's financial cycle begins by early April and ends March 31. It begins with the release of the budget, and ends with pre-budget consultations, which inform the next year's budget.

Financial Cycle Begins

The government's financial cycle begins on April 1.


The Budget is released in early April. It is an annual financial plan that:

  • sets the government's priorities
  • outlines expected revenues and expenses.

Estimates are detailed spending plans that outline what each ministry expects to spend.

First quarter update

A quarterly update is released on or before August 15 providing details about:

  • Ontario's fiscal outlook for the current fiscal year
  • the province's revenues and expenses.

The Public Accounts are a look-back at the previous fiscal year. They:

  • compare Ontario's actual financial performance with the goals set out in the Budget
  • feature the financial highlights of that year
  • provide audited financial statements for that year, audited by the Auditor General

The Fall Economic Statement is released in the fall and:

  • reports on the government’s progress in achieving its Budget goals
  • provides an update on the state of the economy.

Before the Budget is presented, we reach out to people and organizations across the province to gather information to help determine public priorities for the Budget.

Third quarter update

A quarterly update is released on or before February 15 providing details about:

  • Ontario's fiscal outlook for the current fiscal year
  • the province's revenues and expenses.

The government's financial cycle ends March 31 and restarts on April 1.

Where the Budget money comes from

The government's budget is similar to your own personal budget — just much bigger. When you work, you get paid — sometimes you even earn money through investments. The province operates in a similar way by collecting revenues.

The revenues the government collects are mainly made up of taxes. These include the sales tax you pay at the store, your income tax or business taxes. Government revenues also come from transfers from the federal government, and the fees you pay to get things like driving or fishing licences.

What the province needs to pay for

Your own budget includes earnings, but must also be used to manage expenses. You also have to buy groceries, pay rent or a mortgage and manage a host of other expenses. Like you, the government also has expenses to pay for. Ontario's biggest expenses are related to education, health care and infrastructure like roads and bridges.

Deficit and debt

If you spend more than you earn, you end up owing money. Similarly, sometimes the government's revenues are not enough to cover its expenses. To protect important services like health care and education, the government borrows funds to cover this gap — kind of like a mortgage on a house — and pays it back with interest over time.

In years when a government's revenues are not enough to cover its expenses, it has a deficit. When deficits add up from one year to the next, they become part of the provincial debt.

Who determines what Ontario spends money on

There are many stops along the way to creating the province’s financial roadmap. The Minister of Finance and a committee with members of all three political parties connect with people who represent industries, businesses and associations across Ontario. These consultations are taken into consideration before the Budget makes its way to the Legislature.

Learn more about pre-Budget consultations

The final content of the Budget

The Budget is introduced in the Legislature by the government. It reflects key government priorities and choices about where to spend money and takes into account concerns raised in pre-budget consultations. The Budget is voted on by all parties in the Ontario Legislature.

How do you know the budget is working?

Throughout the year, the government checks to see if the roadmap is leading the province where it thought it would. If revenue or expenses are off track, then adjustments can be made to make sure policies and programs continue to support you.