What do ordinary Ontario families do when their budgets are being squeezed? What choices do they make when their jobs are burdened with stress, when their long term career paths look gloomy, and when their futures appear uncertain? Well, they roll up their sleeves and make unpleasant decisions, they keep pressing on no matter how difficult the situation is, and they sacrifice. We aren’t afraid of facing challenge head on, that’s the Ontario way, and it’s why we’re home to over 40% of Canada’s GDP and why we’ve attracted millions of immigrants from every corner of the world for decades.
In his last gasp, Dalton McGuinty, the Premier of Ontario, prorogued parliament and announced he would step aside for an eventually chosen successor, a double stroke exceptionally unbecoming of an Ontario Premier. In the midst of a massive deficit and severe economic uncertainty on a global level Mr. McGuinty gave up, took the easy way out and effectively robbed his province of leadership at the very moment it was most needed. Although his 22 years of public service should be acknowledged, the Premier’s final act was by far his most despicable; it will only reinforce and solidify the very negative state of affairs he bequeaths to his successors.
The fundamental failure of the McGuinty administration is one of overseeing the economic decline of one of the world’s richest regions, turning a prospering Ontario into a have-not province. Never before in Canadian history has a government been so consistently and arrogantly reckless with taxpayers’ hard earned dollars, even Bob Rae’s depressingly disastrous rule did not see such mindless financial profligacy. Apart from doubling provincial spending by increasing the size of government by over 7% a year, every year, for almost a decade, McGuinty’s Liberals almost tripled the provincial debt, resulting in a credit downgrade unheard of in Canada.
The government’s $15 billion dollar deficit does not count major pension shortfalls and other fiscal gaps, notably in the WSIB, where $10 billion is lacking. According to Don Drummond’s much lauded report, the deficit will climb to $30 billion within a few years if drastic action is not taken, and the people of Ontario know full well they can expect zero such action from this tired, worn out government. While the fiscal realities are truly gruesome, Ontario families have weathered major increases to their taxes along with massively bloated energy bills, all from a Premier who habitually and proudly promised not to raise taxes, usually ending those countless pledges with his trademark ‘you can trust me’ smile.
The same smile usually appears when the Premier talks about ‘successes’ in Education and Health Care, his two great career focuses. While the Liberals definitely poured resources into Ontario’s schools and hospitals, the end result is both bloated systems pleading for reform and in many ways disconnected from the people they serve. The education system serves 300,000 less students now than it did in 2003, and yet spending has remained excessive, with school boards unable to properly budget basic renovations and teachers losing essential authority and discipline in classes. At the same time, kids still have to fundraise for basic supplies and student debt is approaching serious levels. Ontario is the only part of the world where toddlers are ultimately paying for their own education – think about the borrowed $1.5 billion for full-day kindergarten, but hey, the teacher’s unions don’t care, they’re rolling in millions more union dues.
The health care system has seen a multitude of new bureaucratic layers added to its ranks, furthering the divide between hard working frontline workers and frustrated patients. The LHINs have dreadfully failed the government’s own targets and the E-Health scandal has resulted in over $2 billion wasted, that’s enough money to build over 5 state of the art hospitals. Not to mention the whole debacle at Ornge, where the government was so irresponsible and devious that for-profit companies were made to enrich bureaucrats and crooked executives like Chris Mazza, who recently built a slalom course in his Muskoka cottage. Don’t forget the fact that under Mazza Ornge helicopters were not even properly equipped for basic health care procedures, even though they cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
The government also repeatedly bowed to the demands of massive public sector unions, awarding them with completely unsustainable benefits and salary increases year after year. When the naïve Liberals ran out of money to placate the unions for political benefits, they asked them for some compromise and slack, but like any special interest group the unions said no and dug in their heels. Seeing the Education Premier called “Worse than Mike Harris” by his old union allies was like being in a twilight zone, a different Ontario in a different parallel universe. McGuinty failed to heed the lesson Bob Rae learned only too well, the moment you stop scratching the public sector union backs, they’ll deliver their money and support to your opponents. Andrea Horwath’s NDP are the new union money beneficiaries, while this will undoubtedly translate into political successes in the future along the lines of Kitchener-Waterloo, the NDP today are just as uninterested in the deficit and the province’s fiscal realities as they were from 1990-95.
On the energy file there are countless failures, including dumping the free market in favour of the government choosing winners and losers, check your energy bills if you’re wondering how that is turning out. The grandest, however, was the cancellation of two gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville, all to save a couple of Liberal seats at the cost of roughly $800 million. To add insult to injury, McGuinty’s Liberals tried to obscure and hide the facts of “Project Vapour” under the guidance of Energy Minister Christopher Bentley, who is now rightfully facing charges of contempt in the Legislature. McGuinty’s desire to avoid these contempt procedures drove his decision to retire, coupled with the fact that the government has refused to play ball in a minority parliament. In Dalton McGuinty’s Ontario, there is no civility in government, only politics – in its most deceitful, uncompromising, and scandalous forms.
With over 600,000 Ontarians out of work and an economy barely growing faster than the rate of inflation it is clear that the Ontario private sector has been buried beneath the avalanche of Liberal economic mismanagement. Ontario once had a powerful manufacturing sector which employed almost 1.2 million workers at high wages, under the previous government; the sector was healthy and in fact growing, even while global competition was high. Under the Liberals, manufacturing now employs less than 800,000: largely due to excessive over-regulation, obscenely high energy bills and fiscal mismanagement The government has handed out more corporate welfare than any in Ontario’s history with little to show for it, where are the 50,000 green energy Samsung jobs which were promised? Only a government led by McGuinty’s Liberals could preside over an economy where unemployment is now routinely above the national average.
Ontario families should ask themselves if their health care system operates as efficiently and effectively as it should with almost $50 billion in funding, if anyone in Ontario believes that health care dollars are not being wasted then Health Minister Deb Matthews (who failed miserably in her oversight of Ornge) is truly a master of prudence and careful management. If Ontario families believe the education system doesn’t require reform they should ask why the TDSB paid $3,000 for the installation of an electrical outlet in a library. When asked what his legacy was Mr. McGuinty said others would decide, well, this Ontarian thinks his legacy was one of arrogance, irresponsibility, waste, and corruption, and with over two thirds of Ontarians glad to see the Premier out, I’m glad I’m not the only one.