It was predictable that once Ontario Premier Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives started to address 15 years of reckless spending by the previous Liberal government, it would be attacked by those who want things to stay the way they are.
The problem is, we can’t. We’ve learned from bitter experience, under former Liberal premiers Kathleen Wynne and Dalton McGuinty, that plunging the province into record debt in an effort to spend Ontario rich, doesn’t work. If it did, our streets would be paved with gold by now.
Instead, the Ontario government, under the Liberals, became one of the world’s most indebted non-national governments.
Today, we have an $11.7 billion annual deficit, a $347 billion debt and we’re paying $13.3 billion annually just to pay the interest on debt, the fourth-largest annual expenditure after health, education and social services.
The financial books were so bad under the Liberals that both of the Legislature’s independent, non-partisan financial watchdogs - the auditor general and the financial accountability office - said the Liberals were fudging the numbers to understate the true costs of the public debt they were amassing.
Ford and the PCs were elected on a mandate to get Liberal spending under control and balance the province’s books.
Now that they’re beginning that job, recipients of provincial funding such as municipalities and school boards - along with the teachers’unions who have fought every Ontario government of every political stripe for three decades - are up in arms.
Suddenly, we’re being told by the usual suspects that not one precious dollar of government spending can be reduced or children will starve and people will die.
This is hardly a new tactic. To be sure, the Ford government has an obligation to reduce public spending responsibly and not to endanger public safety in the process.
It should also welcome the advice from recipients of provincial funding who understand the status quo is not an option and who are making genuine efforts to reduce spending.
It is always better if these sorts of tough financial decisions are done co-operatively, through negotiation, rather than imposing them on provincial funding recipients who want to ignore fiscal reality.
That said, Ford has a mandate to cut spending and to balance the books over time. He ran on it.
[Click here to view the original article from the Toronto Sun's May 18, 2019 edition.]