Listen Up! Let’s hear what the leaders would do about balancing the budget, hydro rates and top heavy health-care costs

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Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

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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11 Comments

  1. Hugh,
    I well remember back in “the day” sitting in my chair at the District Council table listening to a presentation from some provincial bureaucrats to District Council trying to convince us that the proposed LHINS were a good idea. They went on about the advantages of this new organization and how it would be a transformative evolution in healthcare management in Ontario.
    I had the temerity to ask what the cost of the prosed bureaucracy might be 10 years out. I’ll never forget the faces turned gape-mouthed toward me in horror that I should be so gauche as to raise the question of cost!
    Of course I received a a gobbledygook reply. Nobody knew or gave a damn.
    The LHIN was imposed and the rest is history.
    That is the problem. Way too much bureaucracy and feeders -at-the-trough and as a result not enough money for front line people like nurses. This philosophy isn’t confined to health care. It is endemic to the current provincial government.
    Ford doesn’t have all the answers but at least he comes from the the right philosophical corner. He has the stones to seriously examine the costs and not give a fig for bureaucratic sensibilities. Good for him.
    I say lets put political snobbery aside and give him a chance. The others are Hell bent on spending billions just to get elected. Ford couldn’t possibly be worse.

    • Len Macdonald on

      We don’t have to look very far (City of Toronto, USA) to see what happens when voters put an inexperienced, ego-driven leader in place, all in the name of “change.” I have yet to hear any plans or policies Ford might have to get us out of debt in Ontario.

      Claiming that he will fire the Ontario Hydro CEO (which he can’t do) will not reduce our hydro bills. Claiming that he will cut the CBC budget (a federal responsibility) was just another example of his ignorance and slogan-slinging-pandering to voters.

      The smartest thing his campaign did was to keep the press away from all of the dumb things he is claiming he will do if elected and answering the hard questions about his plans and policies if he became Premier.

      • Larry Morrison on

        So in your way of thinking Wynne the liar deserves more chances to drive Ontariowe even deeper in debt. Ford might not be experienced in Ontarowe but I do think he is honest.
        Someone needs to take over from 15 years of lies and skyrocketing debt and the NDP certainly aren’t the answer, in fact they are more brain dead than Wynne trying to buy votes with free everything .
        If anyone thinks Ford can’t do the job look at the other two idiots that only promise higher debt and absolutely no future to Ontariowe taxpayers.

  2. Jim Logagianes on

    The Provinces and all lower-tier governments provide most of the services in Canada. The Federal Government has downloaded a significant cost burden on all lower levels of Government, but chose not to reallocate funding across the board to reflect these changes. How much Government is sustainable? We elected more people Federally and Provincially since the electoral boundaries were changed. Increasing the overhead when you can’t balance the books is not sound financial policy. Electing more politicians was another costly mistake that we can no longer afford. They have created this bloated bureaucracy, that if left unchecked will destroy everything we hold dear. No one wants to open Pandora’s box, but at some point in the future we will be forced to. What do Canadians really want, more politicians or a properly funded health care system?
    How many people have to suffer needlessly in order to finally address the issues facing the current system?

  3. I have only 2 brief points to posit:
    *
    1) having been on 2 LHIN committees for several years, I watched as highly qualified, knowledgeable individuals continually missed deadlines; by letting all discussions degenerate into turf wars: and
    *
    2) having met Mr. Paikin, and having been moderated by him, in a contentious health-care environment; I would suggest that he is the most imminently qualified individual in the province to moderate the leaders’ debates.

  4. Amen, Jim! And great article, Hugh! Something MUST be done to reign in a bureaucracy that answers to no one. The theory is that they answer to our elected representatives (and therefore us) but too often, they thumb their noses at our representatives and thus, we the people. People from Third World and communist countries are used to getting bossed around by their crony-crats. Canadians are NOT and a real reckoning is coming. When a nurse struggles with a very difficult job under very trying circumstances of low budgets for well under $100 K. and the CEOs (along with their extensive staffs) of the various health organizations receive into the millions, the situation is untenable. There are already many more nurses leaving the profession than are entering it. But this situation is not just limited to healthcare.

  5. If you have a fair and workable plan for these three items you will be the elected party!

    We have lived too long with government blundering and trying to cater to specialty interests. First the Conservatives of Mike Harris but lately and far worse, the blundering and outright failures of the Liberals, from Gas plants, the sale of Hydro One, Ontario Pension fiasco….. the list goes on and on…

  6. Voters have a choice to end the Liberal legacy of waste, scandal and mismanagement for the last 15 years by voting for Doug Ford a man with the ability to provide strong fiscal management, a man committed to the people of Ontario not big government.
    Under the corrupt and gross mismanagement of the Liberal governments of Dalton McGuinty and Wynne, Ontario’s debt stands at $311 653 000 000 and growing.

  7. It’s no wonder that Moody’s is changing Ontario’s outlook to negative from stable following Wynne’s budget.

    The Ontario Liberal debt is rising at a rate of over 1 BILLION A MONTH, 226 million a week and 32 million a day. Paying only the interest on the debt is costing taxpayers 12.5 billion this year and is projected to grow to $13.8 billion by 2020-21, and $16.9 billion by 2025-26. The debt was 138.8 billion in 2003, when the Liberals took office, is projected to be 325 billion this year and 360.1 billion by 2020.

    Under the Liberals, Ontario is now a ‘have not’ province for the first time in Canadian history with the largest sub-sovereign debt in the world. A vote for Wynne is a vote to further increase the debt which is the last thing we need. The Liberals with their severe spending problem will bankrupt both Ontario and Canada if we don’t get them out of office.

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