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Some provinces face tougher deficit slog than others: Moody's

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty takes questions from reporters in at a Toronto construction site on March 7, 2012.

Michelle Siu/Michelle Siu/The Canadian Press

Moody's Investor Services says it isn't anticipating "widespread" rating adjustments in 2012, but the credit rating agency says fighting deficits will be much harder for some provinces than others.

While not singling Ontario specifically, it does note the province is currently planning to run deficits until 2018 – three years longer than any other province.

"The provinces still have the fiscal flexibility to reverse the recent financial deterioration, but the task will be more challenging for some, and they still need to clearly elaborate how they will achieve their medium-term targets," the agency says in a report released Thursday.

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"A failure to communicate and implement clear, realistic and effective fiscal consolidation plans could lead to downward rating pressure for some of the provinces. Overall, however, we do not anticipate widespread rating adjustments for 2012."

The influential credit rating agency made headlines in December when it specifically put Ontario on notice that the provincial government could see its rating lowered if it fails to get its fiscal house in order. Ontario is expected to release a cost-cutting budget later this month.

While many private-sector forecasters and the Bank of Canada have recently signalled they expect economic growth for 2012 to be higher than originally forecast, Moody's has slightly lowered its forecast for Canadian growth to 1.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent for 2012.

Moody's anticipates growth will be uneven in Canada, with resource-rich provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan leading the pack thanks to continued expansion in the non-renewable resource sector.

"Growth prospects for most other provinces, however, remain relatively subdued, presenting a challenge to provincial credit conditions," the report states.

Overall, the agency portrays the state of provincial finances in a positive light. The report says the provinces are rated highly because they "exhibit very strong credit quality when compared to other regional and local governments as well as corporates, banks or even sovereigns."

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