Way Out Of Control!
This column may not leave a warm and fuzzy feeling with my Liberal friends but before I get to that, let me try to put where I am coming from in perspective. Yes, as many like to point out, I am a Conservative and I am proud of it. But I don’t have blinders on. I believe that most people who serve in elected politics at all levels of government and whatever their partisan viewpoint, generally do it for the right reasons and deserve respect. I am probably a Diefenbaker Conservative and today would be considered a Red Tory (although I hate that term), but a Conservative nonetheless. I have voted Liberal on occasion and am proud to have friends across the political spectrum.
One such person with whom I have had a friendly acquaintance for more than 30 years is Bob Rae. (Tory friends, please don’t shudder.) He is one of only three signed political pictures I have hanging in my den. The inscription on Bob’s picture reads “To Hugh, who paved the way to my retirement,” a not so subtle poke to remind me that I worked on the other team at election time!
But Bob Rae is a politician whom I admire. When he was Leader of the New Democratic Party and Premier of Ontario, after tugging the reins of power from David Peterson, the Province was in deep recession. Much to the fury of unions who are the backbone of the NDP, he put his partisan interests aside and brought in Social Contract legislation which severely limited public spending including salaries and wages. It was the right thing to do and he did it, but that, as much as anything else, most likely led to his early retirement from Provincial politics.
As a Liberal, Bob Rae has played a significant role at the Federal level, even serving as Interim Leader for a period of time. He is a born statesman, as was his father before him, and I have been surprised that Prime Minister Trudeau has not offered him any of the plum appointments he has been handing out lately. Perhaps he is waiting to tap him to preside over the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. He would be an excellent choice.
All of the above is to say I am not an ideologue. In fact, I abhor ideologues at both the far left and far right of the political spectrum and I blame them for creating a “my way or the highway” political culture where there is no respect, no compromise, and consequently very little accomplished. Donald Trump is a scary consequence of this populist movement, a bully and a braggart whose radical and racist statements are all too reminiscent of Adolf Hitler. And while some will see that as an overstatement, it is interesting that Donald Trump has been endorsed by Jean-Marie Penn, one of Europe’s leading fascists. I hope that Republicans in the United Sates will be able to turn this around before it is too late but I am beginning to doubt it.
Now this is where I may leave my Liberal friends behind, because this Conservative, mild mannered though I may be, is horrified by much of which I am seeing at both the Provincial and Federal levels of government.
Last week, the Wynne Government brought in a budget with a projected deficit of $5.8 billion and that is after pulling in more revenue with a four-cent-a-litre carbon tax on gas and an increase in ‘sin’ taxes such as cigarettes and wine. They are even attacking seniors on limited income by increasing what they must pay for drugs. One good thing they appear to have done is to offer free university tuition to students from families with an income of less than $50,000. It is hard to argue with that.
The reality is, however, that with this projected deficit for 2016, and the seven consecutive Liberal budgets that preceded it, Ontario’s debt will be about $300 billion. That is about $22,000 for every man, woman and child in the province. For a household of two parents with three children, that is $110,000. And that is real debt, not pretend debt or paper debt. At some point, it has to be paid, probably by our children and grandchildren.
Wynne has accomplished something that none of her predecessors have managed to do. She has now amassed the largest debt of any sub-national government (i.e. provincial or territorial) in the entire world. Something to be proud of I am sure. Their mantra continues to be spend, spend, spend, and one cannot help but wonder when it will stop.
And speaking of spending, the Feds are quickly becoming masters at it as well. In his first 100 days in office, Prime Minister Trudeau has pledged $4.3 billion in new spending. Less than 11 per cent of that will be spent in Canada and not a single job will be created here.
The Parliamentary Auditor has confirmed that in the nine months in 2015 that the Harper Government was in power, there was a one billion dollar surplus. During the election campaign, Liberals proposed spending that they estimated would produce a deficit of ten billion dollars. Folks obviously bought into that. However, in a few short months, the Liberal Government has gone from proposing a relatively modest debt to swimming in red ink. They themselves have said that their predicted deficit will almost double and this is before many of the promised programs outlined in their election platform. Further, there seem to be no signs of cutting costs or delaying programs until the economy improves. Indeed, just this past week Parliament approved a whopping $57,600 increase in the office budgets for each member of Parliament. That is a 20 per cent increase, an increase that could not have happened without consent from the Liberal Government whose members will be the largest recipients. Say what you like about Tony Clement, but he would never have allowed that when he was the Minister in charge.
The bottom line here is that government spending at Queen’s Park and in Ottawa is way out of control. Someone needs to fix it before we are in freefall.