Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty seems to be talking himself into running a deficit.
“I've got 200,000 people who have lost their jobs, so now I'm going to shut down their hospitals? It just doesn't make any sense,” Mr. McGuinty said at a meeting of the Council of the Federation on Monday in Montreal.
“I think Canadians are ahead of us. I think they understand these are very challenging economic times, they understand that our revenues are going to go down, that we have to make some difficult choices,” Mr. McGuinty added.
I don’t like the sound of this. It smacks of taking the easy way out. Oh, I understand that deficits are sometimes unavoidable, but our current Ontario government seems not to like making hard choices and are far too apt to take the course of least resistance.
On March 23, 2006, the Ontario government released a budget which showed Interim 2005-06 program spending to be $76.2 billion. The corresponding figure for 2007-08 is $87 billion a 14% increase, well above the level of inflation.
Deficits increase the debt, and resulting interest payments reduce our ability to fund future programs. Annual debt charges in Ontario already exceed a staggering $9 billion—just a little less than we now pay for post secondary education and our justice sector added together.
And deficits are seductive. One inevitably leads to another as we saw back in the 1970s when Trudeau and another Liberal government were in power.
In March 2008, Scott Blodgett, Ministry of Finance wrote:
“The McGuinty government’s prudent approach to managing the province’s finances continues to produce positive results. … and is now on track to achieve its third consecutive surplus and post six consecutive balanced budgets between 2005-06 and 2010-11.”
Now, a little over six months later, our premier is talking about running a deficit?
My guess is there’s ample room to trim spending without having to shut down a single hospital—or school, for that matter. All we really need is a government with the talent, expertise and the will to do so.