Ontario’s budget is going down the wrong path

By MPP Toby Barrett

“In my job I try, every day, to imagine Ontario as I’d like it to be. A place with a hopeful future. Where opportunities abound for people willing to work hard, and take risks to succeed. A place that offers the highest quality of life available anywhere.” – Opposition Leader Tim Hudak.

It didn’t take the recent budget to remind us that the fundamental building block for our province – the fiscal foundation – is not stable. This means the money to pay for the things we all value most like health care, education and infrastructure is threatened. And nobody knows this better than you, the taxpayer who runs your household on checks and balances.

In Ontario we are inventors, innovators, builders, thinkers, and doers. We have everything we need not just to survive, but to thrive in a 21st century economy. We have the strengths on which we can build our future, but if we take stock, the reality is government finances are out of whack.

By and large, we in Ontario are thrifty. We know that we can’t live beyond our means because eventually we hit a wall.

We inherently understand that there are limits; there’s a difference between things we’d like to have and things we need – sometimes we have to choose between them.

Businesses understand this as well. That’s what business is. Money comes in, money goes out. You live right on that line every single day. You’ve got to stay lean. You’ve got to compete. You’ve got to do things better and more efficiently than the competition.

The idea that you’ve got to pay as you go, and watch the pennies, is a basic one that everyone understands — well, almost everyone. The checks and restraints and rules that apply to individuals, families and businesses do not seem to apply to government — especially the present one at Queen’s Park.

There’s never the threat of being fired for making a wrong decision or the threat of bankruptcy. There’s no penalty for screwing up. It’s no wonder the cynicism continues to grow.

People ask me, “How come they can get away with it and I can’t?” It’s a good question and taxpayers were hoping some light would be shed on their questions in the budget. Instead we all heard words like discuss, consider, encourage, consult, seek advice – these are wiggle words of evasion with no content. These are words one uses when there’s nothing to say.

Where is the plan for the 600,000 men and women who wake up each morning with no job to go to? And where is the plan to steer us off the path toward a massive, $30.2 billion deficit and a looming $411.4 billion debt?

Mr. McGuinty faced two paths and took the wrong one. One path demanded urgent action for reducing the bloated size and cost of government, and restoring a dynamic and growing private sector to create jobs. The other was a status-quo path of celebrating mediocrity and accepting anemic growth, major job losses and a weak response to a massive deficit. He chose the second path.

This is not an austerity budget. It’s a terribly disappointing response to a serious and deepening jobs and spending crisis. It just kicks the can down the road. It’s time for a new direction.