Insiders are once again waving red flags over the Liberal government’s mismanagement and misplaced priorities. As with whistle-blowers that exposed failings at Ornge, we recently saw a calendar of budget items leaked by civil servants fed up with partisan vote-buying disguised as public policy.
Those appalled at the $1.1 billion wasted on gas plant cancellations to secure five Liberal-held ridings should brace themselves: $5.7 billion in spending announcements – many of them reheated promises from the past – are slated to be rolled out in advance of the 2014 Budget.
Last week’s economic statement arrived six months after it was legally due. Despite the delay, it contained no plan to reduce the deficit. It predicts deficit elimination by 2017-18, but omits medium-term plans to reach that target. In the past 10 years, Ontario’s debt has more than doubled to $288.1 billion. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is 37.4%, the highest in the province’s history. This aimless government has no vision aside from spending madly for political advantage.
That scattered focus makes it hard for our economy to find its feet. The Ministry of Finance anticipates annual growth averaging 2.1% — just 60% of the U.S. forecast and lagging the rest of Canada — over the next two decades. These glum projections were foretold in 2012’s Drummond Report.
Don Drummond was hired by the government to make recommendations about how to get government spending under control. His report on Reforming Ontario’s Public Services was a fair and broad-based fiscal remedy the Liberals flatly ignored. Instead, government officials continue their high-rolling ways even as deficits climb and debt piles up. Debt payments, government’s third largest spending item, now consume almost 10% of provincial revenues.
Relative to many parts of the world, Ontario is blessed with good government and prosperity, but it’s foolish to think we can continue to debt finance the present and pass the burden of that debt on to future generations – our children and our grandchildren.
Debt and deficits are a major and immediate threat to our ability to attract jobs. Without urgent action, Ontario will lose still more jobs — and government will not be able to afford our health and education programs or take care of the most vulnerable in our society. Postponing tough choices now means doing without in future.
In the past decade, Ontario has lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs and gained 300,000 government jobs. This “strategy” simply doesn’t add up. A shrinking private sector cannot continue to finance the growing cost of the public sector.
Ontario PCs have an achievable plan to create a million jobs. We will lower public debt and with it the need for tax increases, increasing take-home pay and fostering the environment for economic growth. We will help create jobs through affordable energy and train more skilled workers to meet the demand in trades, and help young people find good jobs. We will end job-killing red tape and expand trade with our neighbours – here in Canada and around the world.
Government’s most basic responsibility is to create the conditions for business to thrive, for the economy to grow and for families to prosper. It’s time to get Ontario moving again. The people of this province deserve nothing less.
A version of this entry appeared in the Apr 9, 2014 edition of the Burlington Post.