Wednesday, August 24, 2005
POLITICS AS USUAL: THE DEMISE OF A PROVINCIAL POWERHOUSE
I wake up this morning to find out that the Ontario Chamber of Commerce will be releasing a report today which will argue that the fiscal imbalance between what Ontario takes in versus what it gets back from Ottawa is making it a "have not" province.
Huh? Ontario as a "have not" province? Oh please--do tell.
Apparently, Ontario --you know, the most populous province in Canada that was a scant 5 years ago the economic engine of the country -- is "struggling" with a $2.8 billion deficit and is receiving less $23 billion less than it was in 1995 by way of transfer payments, programs and services.
Undoubtedly, the McGuinty government will use this new report as fresh "evidence" that Ontario is in a strucutral hole it can't possible dig out of without help from the federal government: "Sorry, folks, I'd like to help you, but Ottawa has been real stingy this year. You should go talk to them".
What a maddening, absolute and complete cop out. And no one in this province should let them get away with it. Let the Hipster provide all of you with a few talking points, if I may:
- The so-called "fiscal gap" isn't widening, its narrowing. According to the province's own Economic Outlook, Ottawa transferred $11.6 billion to Ontario in 2004-05. That is a 17% increase from the year before.
- On the other side, the federal government collected only 5% more in taxes in 2004-05 than it did the previous year, most of that due to a sluggish economy.
- The Ontario government collected $1.4 billion more in tax revenue than it had originally forcast for the last fiscal year, which includes that infamous $700 million health tax, which hiked middle-income tax bills by an average of 16%.
- Program spending for Ontario increased by $5.5 billion last year: $850 million in priority areas (healthcare, education, agriculture) and $650 million in non-priority areas.
- Spending per capita (adjusted for inflation) is at $12, the same level at it was under Bob Rae's NDP government.
- This is the same government spends $500 million on auto industry subsidies, $400 million on a casino hotel, $170 million for increased health bureaucracy.
- At the same time, the McGuinty government spends its time banning pitbulls, smoking and eliminating P3 opportunites, corporate tax cuts and any kind of private business in healthcare and allowing business payroll taxes to increase by $7 billion over 7 years.
So much for the "fiscal imbalance". It seems the province is authoring its own demise by spending wrecklessly in non-priority areas, hiking regulations and taxes on businesses and generally not getting its fiscal house in order.
If anything is "have not" in Ontario, its the FIBeral government. They "have not" kept a check on spending. They "have not" used the huge tax winfalls to benefit Ontarians and their conmmunities. They "have not" come up with a plan to secure cheap, efficient energy in the province. They "have not" kept up with other jurisdictions in creating a positive business climate. They "have not" found ways to provide healthcare in an efficient manner and reduce wait times. They "have not" taken responsibility for their actions and been accountable to voters.
Don't let McGuinty and his FIBerals crash this province into the ditch. Don't let them off the hook by blaming Ottawa. Don't let them cry about Alberta's gas-driven surpluses.
Don't let Ontario become a "have not" province.
Now's the time to demand the government spend less time crying about what it doesn't have, and more time maximizing what it does have.
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