The provincial government has balanced its budget as much as paying off your Mastercard with your Visa puts you back on solid fiscal ground.
It’s a sham that only the gullible will fall for. Kathleen Wynne thinks many Ontarians fall into that category, and based on the last election, it would be hard to refute that argument. (A large contingent falls into the self-serving public service category.)
Wynne and Finance Minister Charles Sousa fired up the smoke and mirrors last week, complete with some creative – i.e. crooked – accounting to make it appear as though the books would be balanced just ahead, coincidentally, of course, of the 2018 provincial election. Among their sleight of hand, removing from the books spending on infrastructure that amounts to billions of dollars and operational red ink, not to mention a mounting debt ($312 billion and counting, up from $132 billion in 2003) that costs $1 billion a month to service, the third-largest single expenditure.
Having fictitiously balanced the budget, the province immediately set about doing some very real spending. Most notably, it wants to drop $465 million – the real figure will be much higher – on a drug plan for Ontarians under the age of 25, whether they need it or not, along with a potential sinkhole in rent controls likely to go south the same way every other bit of tampering the Liberals have done – think electricity.
And they’ll continue to spend on inflated infrastructure projects, again whether they’re needed or not.
Nowhere along the line has Wynne given any indication she will get a handle on the core components of government. Instead, we’ll be subjected to mission creep, none of it done well, much of it done poorly.
What we need is a government willing to the hard work necessary to get the budget under control
Clearly, the economy is the top priority, intertwined with our education and health care systems. The latter are important to us, but both will require someone other than Wynne to get runaway expenses under control. You can bet Ontario will be looking for more money from Ottawa, but wages will be a big part of the equation while trying to reel in costs that have far outstripped inflation and economic growth. As the two biggest draws on the public purse, those sectors will need the most attention: we can no longer throw money away as we have in the past.
As everyone is now aware, there’s a major infrastructure deficit as aging roads, sewers, bridges and public buildings need hundreds of billions of dollars worth of repairs, upgrades and replacements. These are basic and essential government services; if we’re going to do what’s necessary – and we have no choice – the government will have to cut a host of other programs, many of which provide little use to the bulk of Ontarians, in order to cover the costs while freezing taxes.
Wynne’s latest budget confirms what we’ve known since day-one: she’s unfit to govern. What Ontario needs is a new government, with Wynne having one more budget to worsen the province’s economy before voters get their say. The key will be to choose wisely what gets cut while reversing a decades-long assault on the middle class. Raising the fortunes of those Ontarians will have a tremendous impact on the faltering economy.