03/25/2012 04:52 EDT | Updated 05/25/2012 05:12 EDT

Ontario Liberals pare back increase to child benefit

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says the province will pare back an increase to the Ontario Child Benefit in the year ahead, by spreading it out over a two-year period.

Speaking to reporters at a Toronto youth centre on Sunday afternoon, the premier explained that the province is not in a position to increase the benefit as quickly as planned.

"We can’t move ahead with the increase in the Ontario Child Benefit that we had anticipated making as quickly as we might otherwise have done," McGuinty said.

"We had a plan to increase it by $200 next year. Instead, we're going to increase it by $100 next year and $100 the year after that."

The Liberal government introduced the benefit five years ago, in a bid to help low-income families provide for their children.

In its present form, the benefit provides up to $1,100 per child annually. It is available to parents whether they are working or not.

McGuinty said the benefit is currently helping one million children within Ontario.

The premier said some critics want to freeze the benefit, or eliminate it, but his government will take a different approach.

"We’re not doing either of those two things," he said.

While McGuinty acknowledged the province is facing tough decisions as it tries to bring Ontario's $16- billion deficit under control, he said the Liberal government will not turn its back on people in need.

"We are not prepared to balance this budget on the backs of families who may find themselves in difficult circumstances for the time being, or on the backs of our children," he said.

The government will introduce its budget on Tuesday.