A recent Doppler commentary criticizing the Ontario Conservatives’ cuts in library funding, Ford’s cut to library service budget smacks of anti-intellectualism, attracted contrary comments informing us that such cuts were essential because “Liberal criminals” “had gone hog-wild for fourteen years“, “spending our money into oblivion” so there is “no more gold in the vaults, folks”.
Really? Was the previous government that bad? If only there were a way to compare the spendthrift Liberals’ record with that of other provincial governments, of various stripes, operating in the same time period. Alas, in fact, there is.
In February this year, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) released a brief report comparing various aspects of Ontario’s finances with those of other provinces. It is available at here. The comparisons were done on a per capita basis, and are based on 2017, when those “champagne socialists” were in power.
The report includes these findings:
Ontario provincial government received $10,415 in total revenue per person, the lowest in the country.
Ontario spent $9,829 per person on programs, also the lowest among the provinces, and more than $2,000 below the rest-of-Canadian average.
Looking only at health care, Ontario’s spending of $3,903 per person was the lowest in the country, and $487 below the rest-of-Canadian average.
Over the period from 2010 to 2017, program spending per person grew at an average rate of 0.7 per cent per year in Ontario, well below the rest-of-Canada average of 1.9 per cent.
Ontario’s net operating deficit was $271 per person, which was below the average of other provinces. However, the FAO expected it to rise to $868 in 2018 due to projected higher expenses and lower revenue.
Ontario has the second highest debt load per person, behind only Newfoundland and Labrador. The debt load was expected to increase, relative to other provinces, as a result of the higher expected deficit in 2018. Nevertheless, the interest on the debt ($858 per person) was $180 below the average for the rest of Canada.
Ontario receives relatively low amounts of revenue from resources and federal transfers, so it must depend more heavily on taxes. Yet, because of the strength of Ontario’s economic base, the tax burden is lighter than the average for the rest of the country. Personal income tax takes 9.9 per cent of labour income in Ontario, compared to an average of 11.7 per cent in the rest of Canada. Corporate income tax takes 11.8 per cent of corporate profits in Ontario, compared with 12.2 per cent in the rest of Canada. On the other hand, sales tax takes 5.9 per cent of household spending in Ontario, but only 5.7 per cent in the rest of Canada.
There is always room for improvement in any endeavor. However, these findings suggest to me that the province’s finances were not out of control during the Liberals’ tenure. I hope that a similar analysis in four years’ time will yield a similar conclusion.
Patrick Flanagan is a retired actuary, currently enjoying life in the Huntsville area.
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