Ten years of scandals have dealt us a poor hand

By MPP Toby Barrett

If the scandals under the present provincial government were a deck of cards, provincial taxpayers would be holding a poor hand. People in Ontario are being cheated out of billions.

The low cards Ontario residents have been dealt include Caledonia, eHealth, Ornge Air Ambulance, Mississauga/Oakville Gas Plants and the largest income tax hike in the history of Ontario. Forget television poker with hands worth hundreds of thousands, these bad deals run us billions.

The most costly case-in-point would be seven and a half years of Caledonia, representing billions in lost opportunities and economic activity in Haldimand, Brant-Brantford and beyond.

But before Caledonia, the McGuinty government first came to power with a promise not to increase taxes. That promise was broken in the first year when the so-called Health Premium was introduced – effectively the largest income tax hike in the history of Ontario. The House always wins! The tax rate is set dependent on individual taxable income to a maximum of $900 per year.

The next big scandal of the current government was eHealth. Designed to create electronic health records, the problem with eHealth was lack of oversight on contracts handed out. The result: from the auditor general’s numbers, $1 billion down the drain.

Another example of taxpayers being cheated is the Mississauga and Oakville Gas Plant fiasco – public hearings continue to this day. These powerless plants were cancelled to win MPP seats in the last provincial election. Auditor General Jim McCarter pointed out that at $275 million “the people of Ontario will have essentially paid for two power plants, but have got just one”.

And it gets worse.

Independent industry experts estimate the Oakville plant cancellation costs could reach $638 million. And then there’s costs to actually build new plants and new transmission lines to bring the power into the GTA from the new locations in eastern Ontario and Sarnia. More recently, there are revelations the Premier’s office tried to intimidate the Speaker of the House to change his ruling. Another low-ball card deal is Ornge Air Ambulance. While there was lack of oversight over this health care spending, the real tragedy lies in allegations of loss of life associated with mismanagement. Ontario’s chief coroner found operational issues caused or contributed to the deaths of eight people over six years.

The obvious result of these scandals is wasted taxpayers’ dollars. Think of what these billions of dollars could do to help the health care system, or relieve the tax burden on Ontarians. Extra dollars remaining in people’s pockets help our economy and create jobs.

Not only is the waste of government money costing us now, it will cost our children and grandchildren in the future. The present government has doubled the debt. Will Ontario become the next Greece? Or Detroit?

A less obvious effect from scandal is a growing cynicism of our political process. This isn’t good

When gamblers enter a poker game, they do so with the knowledge they might lose money and be cheated. I caught a guy cheating during a poker game in my high school days, and on principle, haven’t touched a deck of cards since.