Policies Please …
Well, it has begun. The cut and thrust of the Provincial election is upon us. Third party ads by special interest groups have hit the internet and the airwaves. From both sides of the political spectrum, they are nasty. It is a clear indication that this election campaign is going to be more about personalities than it is about policy.
John Milloy, a former Liberal MPP, and now an assistant professor of public ethics and the Director of the Centre for Public Ethics at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, captured the mood today in an article posted on National Newswatch.
“Ontario seems to be heading into one of the most polarized provincial elections in years. For more and more voters, the choice they make on June 7 is going to be between good and evil.
For some, it is about voting for Doug Ford, the ordinary people’s champion, who will respect our tax dollars and get government off our backs. By voting for him you will help defeat the most dangerous woman in Canada (according to the Toronto Sun) and her band of spendthrift corrupt elites. You will be able to stick it to her supporters. People who want government to solve all their problems don’t understand business and look down on average Ontarians.
Others will choose Kathleen Wynne and her progressive, inclusive vision for Ontario. By voting for her, you can ensure that some bombastic clown doesn’t bring his own version of Trumpism to Ontario by implementing a basket of retrograde misogynistic policies. And you can stick it to his supporters, a pack of undereducated yahoos whose ignorance about government and public policy is staggering.”
In my view, “throw the bum out” is not in itself, an effective political strategy. Both the Conservatives and the Liberals appear to be playing that card, each viciously attacking the other’s leader. Some of that of course is fair game, and the bun fight between Ford and Wynne will provide a level of entertainment to many. The problem, however, is that a campaign based almost exclusively on personalities, or as Milloy says, on a choice between good and evil, obscures the real purpose of an election campaign and that is to demonstrate how each Party, if they form a government, will deal with the serious problems facing Ontario.
Let’s look at a few of those problems.
Recently, there was a forum in Toronto, moderated by TVO’s Steve Paikin and featuring three former Ontario Finance Ministers, the NDP’s Floyd Laughren, the Conservative’s Ernie Eves and the Liberal’s Dwight Duncan. In a recent article writing about the forum, Paikin noted that Dwight Duncan said that whoever forms the next government will get two phone calls at 9 a.m. on June 8, the day after the election. “Those calls,” Duncan said, “will be from (bond-rating agencies) Fitch and Standard & Poors and they will be wondering how the heck the government intends to bring its budget back into balance.” Duncan went on to say that he believed Ontario’s $325 billion debt was a “ticking time bomb.”
Here then, is the first question. What specific plan does each of the three political parties have to create a balanced budget and rid the province of the ticking time bomb? There will come a day when you cannot provide vital services with money you do not have. Buzz words like slashing programs or timelines more than a decade away won’t cut it. If it means higher taxes say so. If there are savings to be made, tell us exactly where they are. The biggest challenge facing Ontario is its massive debt. Voters have a right to know how each political party will deal with it.
Then there is Ontario Hydro. At the same panel discussion, Dwight Duncan said, “None of our political parties is telling the truth about the electricity situation in Ontario.” Steve Paikin also quotes former Treasurer and Premier Ernie Eves, shaking his head and saying (about hydro), “We’re going to borrow $19 billion today and pay back $45 billion decades down the road, so we can have cheaper prices now.” Paikin went on to say that all three former ministers lamented that the government seems to be more focused on coming up with temporary fixes than on having adult discussions about the extent to which the public purse should be used to subsidize electricity prices and whether manufacturers should get special rates in the interest of making Ontario more competitive.
So, the next question is this. What is the plan of each political party for Hydro One? Can we have a transparent discussion about the cost of electricity? Should the government buy back majority control of Hydro One? What is your plan to retire Hydro’s massive debt? Firing the head of Hydro One may appeal to populists, but it is simplistic and does not address the systemic issues that undermine the effectiveness and quality of hydroelectricity in Ontario.
Another huge area of concern is health care, especially so at this point in time to residents of Muskoka. Here is the question to our political parties. What are you going to do to direct significantly more of a $54 billion health budget to the front lines where so many health-care agencies, including hospitals, are underfunded? Why does Ontario have ten times as many healthcare bureaucrats as the entire country of Germany? Do we really need, in addition to the Ministry of Health, 14 LHINs, each of which have a CEO, vice presidents, managers, analysts, supervisors, assistants etc., not to mention 76 subregions, each with their own officials? Why are so many of available health care dollars going to a massive bureaucracy instead of providing quality care where it is most needed?
These are a few of the issues I want Party leaders to deal with during the election campaign. They matter much more to me than a personality contest between Kathleen Wynne and Doug Ford. Hopefully, they do to you as well.
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