Who gets to pay off Ontario’s $281 billion debt?

By MPP Toby Barrett

We have inherited a great Ontario from the ‘World War II generation’ – an Ontario that is now in debt to the tune of $281 billion. If we in the ‘Baby Boom Generation’ can’t pay off this debt, how can we expect the next generation to do it? What right do we have to dump a $281 billion debt on our kids? As we approach 10 years of deficit spending and increased taxation, I am reminded of a prediction made a decade ago by Mark Mullins, the Fraser Institute’s Director of Ontario Policy Studies – a prediction that pointed to a costly future for the people of Ontario. He said, “the government has been floating trial policy balloons for months. We examined them all and priced their impact on the deficit. The result is a stunning surprise: all of the proposed deficit reduction comes from new revenues…and spending is actually set to rise.”

“This is basically pickpocket economics, a tax-and-spend approach that can only diminish Ontario’s future prosperity,” Mullins concluded. That prediction was made 10 years ago!

Fast forward 10 years and we look back on a decade that more than doubled the Ontario debt from $139 billion to today’s figure of $281 billion. And it gets worse, with government-appointed economist Don Drummond’s prediction of a whopping $411.4 billion debt in four years. The past 10 years called for significant action and yet instead of reducing government spending and reducing taxes to spur our economy and create jobs, we saw a series of tax hikes and spending hikes that emptied our wallets. Ten years of taxing and spending has eliminated Ontario’s competitive advantage and driven business, investment and jobs into neighbouring jurisdictions. A government debt is nothing more than accumulated deficits. This year’s budget calls for a provincial deficit of $11.7 billion – projected to rise to $30.2 billion in four years. In any discussion of the present it’s important to look at the Don Drummond projection for 2017-18, and also this governments’ track record. Even with a projected deficit of $11.7 billion and no indication of where they will find the savings to balance the books, the present government claims they will balance the books in four years. But their own hand-picked economist Don Drummond puts a lie to this promise with his projection of a $30.2 billion deficit by that time. To date, Premier Wynne has been more interested in spending more, not less, and yet insists the budget will be balanced, though mathematically impossible at that rate. Ontario has a serious fiscal problem, and the government is not being honest about it. They don’t want you to know that their “plan” to balance the books isn’t a plan at all – just some numbers that don’t add up. We all want a better, stronger Ontario — with more jobs and opportunity than we have now – starting with a government that lives within its means to protect the things we care about, and a credible plan to kick-start economic growth. We need to get our fiscal house in order and restore economic confidence with balanced budgets, lower taxes, affordable energy and less red tape. The choices necessary to balance the books and begin to address the debt won’t be easy. But hard decisions don’t get easier after you’ve ignored them for so long.