The minister of finance for Ontario was one of the provincial representatives who whined most to the media after hearing details of a plan for how much federal health care money will be transferred to the provinces in the future. “It’s no present at all; it’s a lump of coal,” Dwight Duncan is reported to have said.
I’ve learned not to expect better from this blowhard of a politician. All bluster and truth shaping; not much substance. Duncan’s idea of getting the province’s finances back in balance is to make sure he picks a timeframe ending well outside his term in office. Under his and Dalton McGuinty’s leadership we’ll never see a balanced Ontario budget unless, of course, outside pressure forces their hand.
On TV, Duncan went on about how “tradition” called for the federal government to negotiate with provincial ministers over health care transfers. But how much negotiation went on when the Chrétien-Martin Liberals slashed health and education funding to balance the federal budgets in the 1990s?
In the past decade, Billions of dollars have been transferred to the provinces at rates of increase far exceeding either inflation or the growth in our economy—i.e., at unsustainable levels. Now federal finance minister Flaherty has said health transfers will continue to flow at the same six-per-cent increase rate they have been, but by 2018, the increase will be tied to the rate of nominal GDP, which is the measure of economic growth including inflation. Sounds both prudent and generous.
If Duncan wants more money, he could raise Ontario taxes to get it—he has nearly as much taxing authority as the federal government. That’s the adult way, but it’s easier to puff himself up and blame the feds.
Better still, the Ontario government could show the courage and gumption to insist the federal government backs off and stays out of provincial jurisdiction. Our constitution gives Ontario the right and obligation to provide for the health of its residents. Ontario’s political leaders know that this means funding as well as delivery. If we governed within the constitution, Ontario would not have to depend on Ottawa for these sorts of handouts.
© 2011 Russell G. Campbell