Queens Park is finally starting to debate the debt

By MPP Toby Barrett

The US government is in debt $19 trillion – that’s $24 trillion Canadian.

Canadian government debt is $692 billion.

And Ontario is in the hole $300 billion — the largest sub-national debt in the world!

It’s disturbing these three economies, prosperous by world standards, have governments so deep in the hole. But what is more disturbing is nobody in power is doing anything about it – let alone talking about it.

Ontario’s Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, recommended Ontario should at minimum have a conversation about the debt. Ontario’s Official Opposition has now initiated that conversation when Leader Patrick Brown debated his motion in the Legislature on the consequences of Ontario’s grave financial circumstances.

Our Opposition motion calls on the provincial government to present a truly credible plan to balance the books, take immediate action to pay down the debt, and to preserve quality education and health services.

Ontario’s $300 billion debt is due to years of over spending, scandal, waste and mismanagement with little thought of finding savings or efficiencies. It is unconscionable that taxpayers are paying for this government’s mistakes and mismanagement.

Ontario has had nine consecutive budget deficits and pays nearly $1 billion a month in interest on its debt – billions of dollars that could be allocated to other priorities.

The interest payments on Ontario’s debt alone have now become the third-largest government expenditure. This is money that does not go to health care, education, social services or infrastructure. It’s money that goes nowhere but to lenders to service the outstanding debt – a $300-billion loan vulnerable to future interest rate hikes and further credit-rating downgrades.

Ontario’s  Auditor General has warned several times over that the burden of debt is crowding out essential front-line services. For governance to be socially compassionate, it must first be fiscally responsible. The fiscal irresponsibility of this government has resulted in the cutting and the diminishing of social infrastructure.  Just ask any nurse, any educator, or physician.

The Ontario government has been living high on the hog for 13 years, despite the overriding obligation of every elected official in the Legislative Assembly to manage financial resources of the province to the highest standards. We must always strive to balance the books just as we strive to do with our own family budgets and households.

But what we’re seeing from this government is an inability to pay the bills, let alone fund priorities — health care, special-needs funding, support for seniors and education. As a result, we see more school closures, longer wait times for health care, higher taxes and less take-home pay.

We are already seeing services crowded out. Hospital beds are being cut, and funding for physicians has been slashed. Autistic children older than five are being removed from wait-lists.
This government fired over 1,000 nurses and threatens to close special education demonstration schools. Over $1 billion was wasted on bungled electronic health records. Precious health care dollars go towards bloated administration and bureaucracy, rather than to front-line care and to patients.

This government is mortgaging the future—Ontario’s future—of a generation that doesn’t even have a running start due to fiscal mismanagement. It’s not only our children but also our grandchildren and future generations who are going to be burdened with paying off government debt.