(Adds details throughout on budget update and background)
By Fergal Smith
TORONTO, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Canada’s province of Ontario announced a tax cut for small businesses on Tuesday, as it said it is on track to balance the budget this year for the first time since the global financial crisis.
Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, said in a budget update that it continues to project a balanced budget in 2017-18, which is unchanged from its April budget.
The province, which is Canada’s industrial heartland, has benefited from stronger-than-expected growth this year.
The Liberal government, which has a majority in the provincial legislature and faces an election in 2018, expects the economy to grow by 2.8 percent this year, much more than the budget assumption of 2.3 percent.
As part of C$500 million in proposed new initiatives over three years to lower costs for small businesses and promote growth, it will cut the small business Corporate Income Tax rate to 3.5 percent from 4.5 percent, effective Jan. 1, 2018.
The measure could ease the burden for business owners that are facing hikes to the minimum wage, which is due to rise in the province to C$14 an hour on Jan. 1 and to C$15 in 2019. It is currently set at C$11.60.
The provincial government has also introduced measures earlier this year to cool a red-hot housing market in Toronto, including a tax on foreign home buyers.
It said that housing market activity is expected to remain moderate, as rising interest rates, historically high valuations and mortgage debt temper healthy demand.
The province, which has one of the largest sub-sovereign debts in the world, said its net debt-to-GDP ratio will dip to 37.3 percent in 2017-18, lower than the 37.5 percent projected in the budget. It was 38 percent in the prior fiscal year. (Reporting by Fergal Smith Editing by Sandra Maler)