Listen Up! Ontario’s debt the largest of any sub-national government (i.e. provincial or territorial) in the entire world

Hugh Mackenzie Huntsville Doppler

Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

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.


  1. Jacquie Howell on

    Hi Hugh:

    You should be in Florida, if you really wish to see and experience political disaster. I thought the Federal Conservatives in Canada shot themselves in the foot but this is unbelievable.

    Must admit the media which is dear to your heart is getting rich!!


  2. Great piece Hugh, big surprise most people really don’t care. Those that work in government or have a contract with government are doing just fine. When the press lead off with “Liberals are giving us free education” after this government delivers one of the most dismal budgets ever, what are mere mortals supposed to believe? Remember the people voted both the Provincial and Federal Liberals into power. They are simply carrying out the will of the people with the assistance of all forms of media. God Bless America, they seem to be waking up to this realization. I say seem because Hilary is still getting stronger.

  3. The size of the Canadian economy is about $2-trillion. In that context, whether the federal budget shows a small deficit or a small surplus is almost totally irrelevant. Politically, the party leaders – especially cynical ones like the former PM when trying to save his political a** – invest the budget number with inflated importance. Economically, it hardly matters.
    It makes a good sound bite, but taken literally, it doesn’t make for good economics.
    Public and private finances don’t work the same way so having money lying around for a rainy day might work for a family but having tax money lying around isn’t a good thing necessarily because it is someone else’s money the government is sitting on. A balanced budget is good at the household level but plenty of economists question whether it gives a government the flexibility it needs. The government must invest in the future in ways that go beyond what any family needs to do.
    My bottom line is that Prime Minister Trudeau has either achieved or is on track to deliver 46 of his 217 election promises (one of which was to run a deficit) …pretty good for his first few months in office I’d say.

  4. To me, I believe that when an old government is ousted (due to self-inflicted shots to the foot or not) – the new government which often has made “unbelievable promises” is either forced to keep their word or break their promise – Mr. Rae is a good example of this. With Hugh, it takes courage to do the hard thing – but it will come with a cost – and sadly most politicians as good as their intentions may be are more about getting re-elected than doing what may be better for the whole (although as Hugh reminds us ideologues usually have a “my way or the highway” belief – it happens in the church too!)
    The real loss is the view that voting does not seem to matter and as a result they don’t vote. Maybe it is time for a real shake up – friends south of the border seem to being thinking that – but the cynic in me feels nothing will change – just a readjusting of the deck chairs so to speak.

  5. Douglas McDonald on

    Harper-led governments ran a string of six straight deficits between 2008-09 and 2013-14. Yes Hugh, as stated, the Feds are masters at spending.

  6. Great article, Hugh. Certainly echoes the thoughts of many of us. Unfortunately we live in an era of “spend now worry later” as outlined by Ms. Peacock. Perhaps to her (and obviously to the Liberals around the country) $ 300 billion is simply a little bump in the road, but when I am passing a debt of $ 22,000 PER PERSON down to my kids and grandkids, I consider it more than “hardly mattering”. I agree that having money “sitting around doing nothing” is not a great way to run a country, but IMHO neither is spending that much more than they are taking in. And then they have the nerve to raise their office expenses by 20 %. As a senior on a (declining) fixed income, I would like the chance to raise my “office expenses” the same way! God help us if he keeps all 217 promises – the deficit (and debt) will be beyond belief.

  7. As an ardent supporter of Trudeaumania Part 2, but far from a leftist ideologue, I cannot totally disagree with most of your comments. I too am an admirer of Mr. Rae; having worked on his election campaign, and having happily suffered financially under The Social Contract as a public servant.

    He will, however, never lead the subject inquiry: Only a judge would have sufficient credibility for such a task. My only other nit-pick is how a $1B-expenditure in infrastructure cannot create a single job in Canada?

  8. Clyde Mobbley on

    Listen up, if we only could.

    Your Opinion piece Hugh reminded me of a recent post I made on my Facebook page. It follows.

    Here is what is wrong with the local media in Parry Sound-Muskoka.
    “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….”
    Noam Chomsky, The Common Good

    It would be nice if we could listen up to a local dominant commercial media, print, radio, Internet broken out of their limited spectrum of acceptable opinion. It should be engaged in publicizing regular, consistent, opinion, articles and information that wasn’t just right wing thought and opinion. It looks like the comments to your opinion piece clearly demonstrates what comes from a limited spectrum of acceptable opinion.

    If Parry Sound-Muskoka didn’t suffer under the limited spectrum of acceptable opinion in its local media would your opinion piece be seen for what it is?

    IMO, “Way Out Of Control” would then be seen as an apt descriptor of your opinion piece.

    Clyde Mobbley

    • Lenore Werry on

      Hugh — A few years ago you told me – “You have to spend money to make money. ” What has changed your mind? Or is it the change of political government that has changed the philosophy?

  9. Hugh
    From your comments I copied the following:

    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.

    Is this really true? Even just 11 percent of 4.3 billion is a lot and would seem to have to create work somewhere for someone but more to the point, why and where are we spending the other 89% when we need to do so much right back here?

  10. Emmersun Austin on

    The further we go the more we will all have to re-examine the financial monetary system we are engaged within. An out-of-date monetary system combined with an out-of-date political system entering into a vast digital network is recipe for disaster with all sides/tribes trying to figure out & advance their belief structure. It’s all about resources & how we label or recognize them with a $ figure.

  11. Clyde Mobbley on

    I found this comment to be a bit odd Hugh.
    “Say what you like about Tony Clement, but he would never have allowed that when he was the Minister in charge.”
    Maybe you don’t recall Tony Clements comment regarding the $600,000 in limousine driver overtime.
    “Our ministers are working long hours for the economy, long hours for jobs, long hours for the people of Canada,” Treasury Board President Tony Clement said at the time.
    “Sometimes that means a bit of overtime by the drivers.”
    Check out these two link;
    Alberta Tory Lashes out at Expensive Perks for Government Cabinet Ministers
    No Apologies for Pricey Limo Tab for Ministers Attending Swank Davos Retreat: Pricey Limo Tab for Ministers in Davos

    Do we save more money by purchasing at the lowest price, when we end up topping up low wage precarious or part time work !
    How do we ENCOURAGE business people to be more green and less greedy ?
    We know stock investors want ever increasing dividends , so do we continue
    unchecked , at what level while WE pay for the less in worker incomes ? Pay more in taxes for breaks , and costly social supports.
    Do we see an increase in box stores that squeeze out mom and pop !
    The end of the Farmer?
    The home based business ?

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