Andrew Coyne: Wynne’s budget makes Bob Rae’s NDP look like flinty-eyed fiscal conservatives


On the way into the Ontario budget lockup, you passed through no fewer than half a dozen police checks: uniformed cops, with guns, bulletproof vests, the works. You’d have thought you were entering NATO central command. All this, for a budget whose contents were already known to everyone.

Which gives you something of the surreal flavour of the event. Not only had the budget been leaked, steadily, for weeks, but in all likelihood it will never be implemented, assuming the government falls over it. One can’t be sure, of course: the NDP leader, Andrea Horwath, whose decision it is to make, declined to offer any comment. On the budget. On budget day. That, too, gives you a flavour of the proceedings.

And yet, as strange as the whole thing was, there was at the same time a strong sense of the familiar. Why yes: reading the budget, one was taken back to the last days of the Bob Rae government, two decades ago — that same feeling that those in charge had no real grasp on the size of the hole they had dug for themselves, nor any serious plan to get out of it. In retrospect, the comparison seems unfair. Rae was a flinty-eyed fiscal conservative compared to this bunch.

At a time when ratings agencies are threatening to downgrade Ontario’s debt — again — amid serious concerns about the province’s ability to attract and retain investment, the policy direction advocated by the province’s government is to spend more, tax more, and borrow more. The deficit, far from declining, is projected to increase again this year, before miraculously melting away over the succeeding three.

The province’s net debt, at $289-billion already nearly double what it was when the Liberals took power, is projected to grow by another 18% — $48-billion — over the next three years; debt service costs, even at today’s historically low interest rates, are projected to climb by a third. The debt-to-GDP ratio will hit 42% this year, up from 28% a decade ago.

What is the government doing about this gathering fiscal calamity? Once, long ago, under a government the current premier, Kathleen Wynne, insists she had no part of — the government of Dalton McGuinty, her immediate predecessor — the province made a pass at restraining spending. Program spending was held constant for two years running (can you believe it: two years!) But that has since been abandoned. Spending is now running more than $4-billion over the track laid out by the economist Don Drummond, whose 2012 report the government claims to be following. (80% of his recommendations, the budget claims, have been implemented! Just none of the main ones!)


At roughly 17% of GDP, the Liberals aren’t just spending more than the Conservative government that preceded them (average: 13.4%) or even the free-spending Liberal government of David Peterson (14%). They’re spending more than Rae’s government (16.4%). Measured in real dollars per citizen, the Wynne Liberals are now spending one-third more than the Harris Tories, one-quarter more than the Rae New Democrats, and nearly 50% more than the Peterson Liberals.

And that’s just the current numbers. The budget also outlines a 10-year, $29-billion spending spree — sorry, a “bold new plan” — on transit and transportation projects. I say outline, because the government has barely begun to fill in the details, notably how it is going to pay for it. Roughly half of the “dedicated funding” assigned to it would come from earmarking existing taxes — which simply shifts the revenue problem onto the programs those taxes are currently paying for. Another tenth or so is supposed to come from “asset optimization,” based on recommendations that have yet to be made by a blue-ribbon panel that has barely been struck. A further 5% is from tax increases — sorry, “targeted revenue measures.” And the rest, fully one-third of it, they’ll either borrow or extract (they hope) from the feds.


Much of the budget is in fact given over to complaining how short-changed the province is by Ottawa, which takes some work given federal transfers are more than 3% of GDP annually — twice what they were when Harris was balancing the budget. The province is in no meaningful sense short of funds: though it has elected to raise taxes on incomes above $150,000, the revenue yield, even allowing for the government’s inevitable overstatement, is negligible: barely one-half of 1% of provincial revenues. As with so much else in the budget, it’s just for show.

And the show is: NDP voters, come on over! Whatever glancing references there may be to the need to make “every dollar count,” the overall message is one of primitive Keynesian-style stimulus (“now is the time,” the budget claims, to spend big — five years into a recovery), mixed with 1970s-style industrial strategy, including a $2.5-billion “Jobs and Prosperity” fund to bribe companies to stay in Ontario even as a dozen other measures in the budget are screaming at them to leave.




There’s a lot of that sort of self-contradictory, mutually cancelling stuff in this: a “regional development” fund for every region; a program to subsidize businesses to conserve on energy and another one to subsidize them to consume it (Confused? The province will send “Roving Energy Managers” around to help you distinguish between them).

And, of course, there is the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, a vast new scheme to appropriate $3.5-billion a year out of working people’s pockets — $100 a month for someone earning $70,000 a year — and invest it on their behalf, whose merits deserve a separate column.

Will it work? (I mean politically: did you think I was talking about the economy?) We shall see. But if I were Tim Hudak, the Conservative leader, watching the two other parties duking it out over who can tax, spend, and borrow the most, I’d be smiling today.









Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre

The Liberals should have could have and can cut BILLIONS from the budget by ending the Ontario Government's outright funding of Criminal Organizations in Ontario, specifically, the C0RRUPT Children's Aid Societies of Ontario who use most their Billion Dollars in direct funding on a Third Reich style of Gender Superiority Program that spends billions of dollars advocating for Violent Women and promoting Domestic Violence against fathers.

Our Family and Criminal Courts largely operate with cases that are a direct result of the Ontario Government's plan for Gender Superiority to provide unlimited State Funds from Police CAS and C0RRUPT prosecutors like Vikii Bair of Ottawa who are used to prosecute male victims of domestic violence.

Ontario spends Billions on Third Reich "gender Superiority" programs called "Partner Assault" where C0RRUPT Cops like Det. Peter Van Der Zander of the Ottawa Police fabricates evidence to Protect the female perpetrators of unprovoked violence towards children and partners.

Then there is another Billion or more spent on C0RRUPT JUDGES who are spend ten years working for the CAS and then become Judges of CAS Secret Courts where a pretense of justice is shown while in reality they act as Rubber Stamps for Ontario's most expensive Criminal Organization,

The Children's Aid Societies of Ontario.