It is worrisome what is not addressed in budget

By MPP Toby Barrett

Now that we have discovered the current government will double Ontario’s debt by fiscal year 2012-13, we must seriously consider a number of remedies.

We must make government smaller, end deficit spending and balance the budget and, when we are done, produce a government that is effective in performing its key functions.

The task before us is huge.

Dalton McGuinty’s record of high taxes, corporate subsidies, and record deficits has left Ontario as a ‘have-not’ province, with a lower standard of living than rust-belt jurisdictions such as Michigan, and a higher unemployment rate than countries like Greece or the Central African Republic.

The McGuinty Government is spending at unprecedented record levels, yet we see reduction in services we all rely on – government is closing emergency rooms and laying off nurses throughout the province.

Spending has now sky-rocketed to a projected $125.9 billion for this fiscal year 2010-11 with deficits projected for the next seven years. At $289.3 billion by 2012-13, the debt will be double what it was when this government was first elected.

This $289.3 billion debt is one of the reasons change has to occur and has to occur immediately. Our children will have fewer jobs, pay higher taxes, have lower incomes and be less able to afford homes because of this debt.

The path we are on today has led to slow but certain erosion of Ontario’s economic strength. No economy, no matter how prosperous, can afford to pile up literally billions upon billions of dollars of debt.

The path we are on today is also fundamentally wrong. Today it seems, we are selling off the house and leaving the kids with the mortgage.

But the budget fight is ultimately about much more than the debt.

Add to these troubles the high Canadian dollar, which contributes to the decline in our exports to the United States.

Unimpeded access to the US market must remain Ontario’s top economic priority. However this was not addressed in either the budget or the speech from the throne. Given that the United States is, by far, Canada’s and Ontario’s largest trading partner we cannot afford to neglect our relationship with our southern neighbour. The US economy is the world’s largest and most powerful.

But, unfortunately for Ontario’s steel, agriculture and manufacturing jobs, the financial crisis and economic recession that started in 2008 has sparked a new wave of protectionist measures in the United States.

President Obama’s ‘Buy American’ provision is not the only new protectionist measure. The implementation of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) on some food products is contributing to the decline in pork exports, and also pushing down the price of beef – already rock-bottom because of BSE.

As well, the softwood lumber trade war continues into today’s era of plummeted US housing construction.

Since 9/11, the American attitude towards the Canada-US border has changed dramatically and cross-border trade has suffered as a result. Resulting border restrictions and waiting costs continue to threaten the integrated supply chain in manufacturing.

If US Cap and Trade bills to reduce greenhouse gases become law, Congress will also impose tariffs or levies at the border to protect “trade-exposed industry” from jurisdictions with lower GHG emissions standards.

None of these issues were discussed in the recent budget speech and I find that worrisome.