Years of fiscal ineptitude coming home to roost for Kathleen Wynne
Kathleen Wynne must be asking herself why she ever wanted to succeed Dalton McGuinty and become Premier of Ontario.
Her successor — whether that’s PC leader Tim Hudak or NDP leader Andrea Horwath — should be asking themselves why they want the job, as well.
Ontario’s game of maxing out the provincial credit card and avoiding the hard choices is about to end.
First, let’s kick the Toronto-based media and their Queen’s Park correspondents for failing to react to the revelation this week that we’ve been being conned as to the state of the deficit.
All year long the magic number has been $9.9 billion in the red. There hasn’t been a single indication that the province was doing any differently than this projection from the spring budget.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa, in his fall economic statement this week, made note of the fact that the province had planned on a much higher growth rate — 2.7 per cent — than it was experiencing (around 1 per cent).
Funny: the state of the overall economy was known, but not one reporter bothered to ask how the projection could be maintained without further cuts in the face of an anemic growth picture like that.
Not only that, but yesterday, when Premier Kathleen Wynne spoke and was interviewed at her Ontario Economic Summit, she casually revealed that the true deficit projected for this fiscal year is $11.7 billion, or nearly 20 per cent higher than anyone’s been told.
The 20 per cent never saw ink. The $11.7 billion was calmly substituted into news stories about Kathleen Wynne as though it had been the number all along. Shades of 1984, eh?
Second, Wynne has shown she’s understood the trap she and her minority government are in.
She spent Friday musing about all the things she’d like to do, if she only had the fiscal room to manoeuvre. The province’s debt service profile depends on holding its credit rating right where it is — and the rating agencies (who do keep track of these things, unlike, apparently, the professional journalists paid to do so) will not be pleased with that bump in the deficit projection one iota.
Ontario, as well, spends the least on a per capita basis for its programs of any of the provinces. So the traditional rallying cry of the right, “cut the waste,” might not have room to run, either.
Frankly, if Ontario was a business (and I do not advocate “running government like a business”), divisions (or programs) would be closed completely, and where possible prices (call them taxes) would be raised.
Except Wynne has no stomach for cutting programs — she’d like to add to them — and knows she has no political capital for raising taxes (not that Ontario’s a cheap jurisdiction, tax-wise, now).
She needs every vote she can get when next year’s election happens, and therefore won’t do anything to alienate even a single one of them.
Mind you, the populace at large, having been kept in the dark by the media for so long, hasn’t a clue how bad their situation actually is. Nor are either opposition party about to spill the beans, since the vacuity of their platforms and solutions, on a par with the content-free sloganeering of the governing Liberals, would then be clear.
No one has anything even close to a plan to fix Ontario’s woes. Put the PCs into power and they promise to slash and burn until the deficit … is $8 billion/year. The NDP promises to fix things the other way: by raising taxes to preserve programs.
It leaves Kathleen Wynne doing what she’s doing: hoping no one catches on, and diddling.
Every step, right now, is one to preserve her limited political capital, and win another term. It’s about all she can do.
The inevitable tax rises — probably after the province’s credit rating has been cut again — to cover the increased debt service charges and the program spending in infrastructure that’s the result of a thirty-year deferral, will come after that.
Regardless of who’s in power, mind you.
That’s what life in “Greece on the Great Lakes” is like these days.
Not that the television news, the radio news, nor the print journalists in the province are reporting any of it.
For all of them, the news was about Kathleen Wynne waffling on about creating jobs. Out of nothing, with nothing, spending nothing.
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