We don’t have a revenue problem – it’s spending

By MPP Toby Barrett

With respect to Ontario’s Finances, we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. Deficits have risen to levels that are going to be very difficult to turn around because of the cumulative impact on the debt. Ontario must stop the deficit growth and ensure sustainable revenue generation.

By 2011-12, the Ontario Ministry of Finance projects the province will be raising $100 billion in revenue. Revenue will have increased 46 per cent since the year Dalton McGuinty took office and yet expenses will still exceed revenue by nearly $20 billion.

And the same goes for this fiscal year. On October 22, 2009, the Ontario government announced a record-shattering $24.7-billion deficit – larger than the deficits of every other provincial and territorial government combined. Every hour of every day the government spends $2.8 million more than it receives in revenue. At this current rate of spending, by 2012-13, Ontario’s debt will double.

Since 2003, Ontario’s debt has grown by $65 billion and government spending has increased 65 per cent. Yet, over the same period, Ontario’s economy has grown less than six per cent. On a per household basis, Mr. McGuinty has increased the province’s debt by $13,500 for every family in Ontario.

Also since 2003, a host of new taxes, fees, permits, and licenses have been introduced under Mr. McGuinty, raising revenue, but also raising the cost of living and making the province uncompetitive with comparable jurisdictions. The health tax, corporate income taxes, small business taxes, driver’s license renewal fees, taxes on beer, wine and spirits, new land transfer taxes and vehicle registration fees in Toronto, OHIP de-listings like chiropractic services, eye exams, physiotherapy services, electronics taxes, tire taxes, and commercial vehicle operators registration license fees are but a few of these new burdens. The implementation of the $3 billion HST tax grab alone amounts to the largest single tax increase in the history of Ontario.

During the recent recession, Canada faired better than most; however, within our borders, Ontario continues to lag behind other provinces, maintaining its new status as a have-not province. Sadly, economists across the country predict Ontario will continue to trail the nation in economic recovery.

Despite spending more than $32 billion on stimulus, and promising to create more than one million new jobs, the McGuinty Government presided over a net loss of 141,600 net jobs in 2009 and since becoming Premier, a total of 279,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost. At the same time, we see a staggering expansion of the public sector, eight times as fast as the private-sector.

Private-sector growth has also lagged, in large part, due to excessive red tape and regulatory burden. Red tape costs money and kills jobs. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) estimates the red-tape burden in Ontario is costing businesses $11 billion per year.

For seven days, I listened to nearly 140 groups presenting to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs – deputants made over 1,000 recommendations to the McGuinty Government. The time has come for Dalton McGuinty to heed advice and take action to implement meaningful policy changes that will propel Ontario from worst to first.

It begins with putting the brakes on reckless spending, reining in runaway deficits and record tax increases and finally providing tax relief to hard working Ontario families and businesses.