For over a year, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government has been at war with the Auditor General over whether we were out of a deficit situation or not. The attacks on an independent officer of parliament were relentless, vicious and personal.
For the first time in Ontario history, unaudited government financial statements were tabled in the legislature. Damn the auditor!
Now it seems the whole brouhaha was all for naught. The government just announced that next year it would be running an $8 billion deficit. Wynne seems to have adopted the mantra of that other guy, US President Donald Trump, always spoiling for a fight just for the fun of it. According to a Trump tweet last week, conflict is a good thing. It’s not chaos but “great energy.”
How dare would an independent overseer actually dare to disagree with the government, which has shown that it much prefers lapdogs like Ombudsman Paul Dubé or French Languages Commissioner François Boileau than a real watchdog?
How bad is our financial situation in Ontario? As former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney put it last week “Ontario has been reduced to accepting equalization payments from Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Finance Minister Charles Sousa wants to make it clear that the new deficit, which amounts to breaking its promise to maintain a balance budget, wasn’t just happenstance. He’s driving us into more debt “deliberately.” How is that supposed to make us feel better?
It’s like saying “I didn’t fall off that cliff, I jumped!”
Sousa says “we have to invest more and that doesn’t come cheap. So here is the choice: Ignore these costs of care to stay in balance or use our fiscal room to invest more in mental health, long-term care and child care.” Which all sounds great.
The problem is that for 15 years, these three areas have been neglected. The government’s priorities have been on shinny objects. Think free university, free drugs for people under 25 years old, increasing minimum wage by 30% and an extra week of vacation all announced in the months leading to the June election.
But none of it seems to have fooled the electorate and Wynne’s sinking ship seems to be a done deal. According to a poll early last week, “Anybody But Wynne” appears to be a real thing.
According to a poll released last week by DART, “eight in 10 (81%) Ontarians believe it’s time for another provincial party to take over and run the province compared to just two in 10 (19%) who say the Liberal government under Premier Kathleen Wynne has done a good job and deserves to be re-elected.”
To make matters worse for Wynne, the poll was conducted in the middle of the Progressive Conservative’s chaotic leadership campaign at the time former leader Patrick Brown was unceremoniously dumped from the party. Yet voters still preferred the PCs at 44% to 19% for the Liberals, leaving the NDP in the middle at 24%. 13% said “other.”
An Angus Reid poll released last Thursday had even worse news for the Liberals pegging the PC support at a staggering 50%, the Liberals faring slightly better than the DART poll at 24% and the NDP at 22%.
What we are witnessing is the complete decimation of the Ontario Liberal party. History might well reveal it to rival the 1993 federal election when the Progressive Conservatives under Prime Minister Kim Campbell were left with 2 seats out of the 295. Maybe even besting it, with Ottawa-Vanier likely the only safe seat left in Ontario.
With its track record of mismanagement, wasteful spending and scandals, it’s one trophy the Ontario Liberals richly deserve.