By MPP Toby Barrett
For Ontario to lead again, we must make the decisions necessary to balance the budget in a responsible way.
Ontario’s Auditor General, Jim McCarter, has advised residents to take the McGuinty pledge to limit spending to 1.8 per cent a year with a “moderately big grain of salt,”. In his recent report McCarter indicates 1.8 per cent represents a dramatic decline from the past 8 years of 7 per cent annual spending hikes.
McCarter’s not the only one questioning government’s spending.
Eight years of increased spending have left people demanding answers. I’m asked at the door how can we now hold the line on spending, cut taxes and invest in priority areas like health and education? Of course, the quick answer is to cut wasteful spending.
Before considering approaches to mend what has been broken, it’s important to look at what needs to be fixed.
A good place to start is to consider Ontario’s ballooning debt. Jaws drop when I tell people that it took 136 years for 23 premiers to build Ontario’s debt, and the present government will double this debt during its’ eight year tenure.
Of course, this debt doubling feat comes as little surprise when you consider provincial spending has increased by almost 80 per cent at a time when the provincial economy grew by only 10 per cent.
The economic uncertainty of the past few years is no excuse for this irresponsible binge of spending that has driven Ontario’s deficit and debt to levels never before imagined.
Ontario’s growing debt means that our children run the risk of being worse off than we are. It mortgages our children’s future and puts the future ability to invest in health care and education at risk. For example, the money borrowed last year to service the debt could have been spent on 17,500 MRI machines, 611, 332 first year nurses, 375,059 nurse practitioners, and 160,000 doctors.
We must reign in wasteful spending. Outside of our priority to increase health and education funding, we must find annual savings of two cents on the dollar. Two percent – this is realistic and achievable.
We must achieve a fair deal for the people who are paid by taxes and the people who pay the taxes. Public sector compensation must reflect the ability of families to pay the bills. In recent years, arbitrators have awarded government workers excessive contracts, even as Ontario has been saddled with record deficits and a struggling economy. Ontario families get stuck with the bill.
Ontario has almost 630 different agencies, boards and commissions. Every one of them must be reviewed to ensure they are providing good value to families. The process will be straightforward. If it works, leave it alone. If it’s broken, fix it. If it cannot justify its existence, it goes.
In addition to out-of-control spending on ever-larger government, the present government has added insult to injury, picking private sector candidates for corporate welfare while shutting out competition – the worst example being the $7 billion sweetheart Samsung deal. It is not government’s job to pick the winners and losers.
It is apparent as I knock on doors across Haldimand and Norfolk, families must live within their means and make choices to balance their budgets – government should be no different.