Will our government resolve bad habits in 2017?

By MPP Toby Barrett

Eating healthier, exercising more, budgeting more – these are all common resolutions we make as the calendar flips from one year to the next.

Resolutions are made in attempt to turn a new leaf or make improvements going forward.

Our government has some bad habits and overspending is one of the worst. Ontario’s debt currently sits around $307 billion and is growing every second of the day. That’s a debt load of nearly $22,500 for every man, woman and child across our province.

No matter whom I speak to, whether it’s a senior on the streets in Dunnville or a student in the high school in Delhi, there remains no confidence in the government’s fiscal track record. As we wrap up 2016, it can be remembered as another year jam-packed with mismanagement, failure and fatuity.

Many shake their head; they know we are in a financial mess to the tune of billions but many simply cannot comprehend what a billion dollars looks like, let alone $314 billion. Just a few weeks ago, a constituent sent me an email that puts things in perspective:

  • a billion seconds ago it was 1984
  • a billion minutes ago Jesus was alive
  • a billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age
  • a billion days ago nobody walked on the earth on two feet
  • a billion dollars ago was roughly 28 hours ago, at the rate our government is spending

People are aware of taxes taking money out of their wallets and off their take-home pay, and they are also aware of  the countless scandals plaguing the Wynne government — eHealth, ORNGE, the Green Energy Act, power-plant cancellations, and of course soaring hydro costs, just to name a few.

These scandals and mismanagement of our money means help and service are delayed in areas like Haldimand-Norfolk, and sadly some of our most vulnerable citizens are told they must continue to wait.

Audits of any private or public organization will always uncover areas of improvement but the issue becomes damaging when there’s no effort to learn from those past mistakes.

In her recent 2016 annual report, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk highlighted procurement practices of the government. Much like big box stores, the Ontario government is large and has the advantage of being a choosy customer to get the most bang for the buck. As well, they have the ‘buying power’ to hold shoddy service to account. By failing to exercise these powers, or perhaps give contracts to friends, the Wynne government has squandered millions of dollars that could have been spent on homecare for seniors, or additional Passport funding, or to aid frontline healthcare.

Taxpayers expect government to make tough decisions on their behalf to protect and enhance their well-being. The cost of mismanagement is not only financial – the more money wasted, the more services decline, the more trust is squandered.

In the coming months we’ll learn whether or not Wynne will use cap-and-trade funds, continue to raise taxes or cut frontline services in order to balance the budget. It’s rumoured government is planning to artificially balance the books during an election year, before plunging us back into deficit.

As we embark on 2017 with our own personal resolutions, the provincial government should firmly resolve to immediately tackle its bad habits for the sake of us all.