It was a euphoric sight. Looking at pictures from the Liberal government side of the Legislative Assembly’s chamber Premier Kathleen Wynne and her finance minister Charles Sousa were fist-pumping, high-fiving and jumping with joy. Did we defeat ISIS once and for all, or outsmart US President Donald Trump on NAFTA?
No. We balanced a budget – allegedly. And the first time in over a decade. I say allegedly as the Auditor General takes issue with Liberal maths. According to the AG, we’re still a few billion dollars away from the “big celebration”.
Now what do you think most people having a hard time paying off their monthly credit card would do when they finally managed to do so after more than a decade? They’d likely have a little celebration too but would start thinking about the mounting debt and how to start addressing that. They likely wouldn’t go on a new spending spree.
But most people are not at 11% approval rating from the rest of the world and having to face an election in a year. So Wynne and her cohort did just the opposite of most people. They went on a bender with your money. It was a crass example of government bribing us with our own money.
The new orgy of spending was on shiny objects, not on long-term sustainable infrastructure. Toronto Mayor John Tory pounced on Wynne turning her back on no new money for social housing or for not matching federal commitments for transit.
“Yes, the Government of Ontario has taken steps to cool our housing market and make things more affordable for those who can afford to buy,” he said. “But the province also owes something to those who rely on social housing for a roof over their heads — a roof that past provincial governments built, failed to maintain, and then handed off to cities, especially Toronto,” Tory pointed out.
Free drugs for people under 25 years old was the highlight of the budget. In making the announcement, the Wynne government tried to outdo NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s announcement a week before that as Premier she would offer universal access to 125 essential medications.
I don’t buy either party’s negligible costing of either initiative. There are just too many variables, including the costing of medications. A pharmacare program only makes sense if implemented on a national level for all Canadians.
Budgeting under the provincial Liberals has been a hedonic treadmill. Ignoring the reality of a steadily growing $310 billion debt, they spend and spend in an attempt to socially reengineer us. It doesn’t work. So spend more it is.
Wynne’s ignoring our debt while selling assets like Hydro One to finance pet projects to frame the issues for the upcoming provincial election. Paying down debt may not appear sexy like offering free drugs, but we expect leaders to have the courage to do politically tough things – not just play politics with our money.
If we are, as Wynne claims, in the black why not have a plan for reducing our liability? If not now, when?