Saturday, May 29, 2004

A Common Sense Hangover

The recent Budget tabled by the Ontario Liberal government has caught the politically uninformed off-guard. Throughout the province angry Ontarians are ready to take Mr. Guinty to task for what they see as an egregious breach of trust. One man even went so far as to send a strongly worded email—flagrantly, harassing hate-mail—to Mr. McGuinty, quickly resulting in the man’s arrest. It is doubtless, though, that many Ontarians are restraining their distaste for this budget until the June 28th Federal election. So what is it exactly that has raised the ire of so many Ontarians? Well, for one, Dalton McGuntiy misled the electorate when he said that he wouldn’t raise taxes. Also, the change Ontario voters chose apparently came at too high of a price than they were willing to stomach. But the skeptical onlooker would wryly rejoined, “Why is this news? Weren’t voters paying attention to this before the election?” Likewise, the seasoned cynic would demur, “Come’ on people, pay attention”.

In not necessarily an about face, the Liberals have implemented new health care premiums that will re-infuse $2.2 billion back into Ontario’s beleaguered Health Care System. Somehow Ontarians were under the impression that reinvesting back into our social treasures of Education and Health would be without no personal sacrifice. One must concede, though, that Dalton McGuinty offered a slightly redacted version of his vision of Ontario during the election when he promised not to raise taxes. However, if one were so inclined to read his lips carefully during the election, one would have caught the essential esoteric meaning: personal income taxes won’t be increased, though, user fees, premiums, increases in licensing, ect, will be introduced. This form of indirect taxes isn’t, within the letter of his intent—the literal meaning—an increase in personal income taxes. But within the spirit of his intent, and the commonly construed public understanding of it, an increase in indirect taxes is clearly a breach of trust.

Yet, considering the $5.6 billion deficit McGuntiy inherited from the out-going Harris/Eves government, these measures are vital to the education and health policy the Ontario Liberals hope to implement. The Ontario Liberals came to power because Ontario voters voted against the Harris/Eves Conservative record. For them, the Common Sense Revolution amounted to a self-inflicted wound that put into disrepair Ontario’s Educational, Health, and Public infrastructure. The economic prosperity Ontario underwent during the Common Sense revolution was incompetently squandered by the Tories, and in the end Ontarians were left with a $5.6 billion bill, and a nasty hangover. Though it may pain them, Ontarians must come to the sobering realization that social programs cost money, and if you’re not willing to gin up then don’t complain about health care and education when the Tories cut social spending to fund your tax cuts; because when they inevitably do, you should start looking for alternative(viz. private) forms of education and health services, to augment what will most certainly become Ontario’s weak public health and education services.

A May 22 article in The Globe and Mail by Murray Campbell speaks to these concerns. Referring to Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, the article reads:

He acknowledged that the Liberals' fiscal promises were a "small but important part" of their election campaign, but argued that the party was elected primarily because it promised to re-invest in government programs that had been cut back during eight years of Progressive Conservative rule.

Further underscoring the necessity of the measures taken, Sorbara concludes:

"The strongest mandate coming out of the campaign was for improvements in public services," he said. He noted that a Conservative campaign that argued for lower taxes and continued spending restraint had been "soundly rejected" by voters

Despite the noble intentions of the Ontario Liberal government, this budget will have an adverse political effect on the electoral fortunes of the Federal Liberals come election time. Already reeling from the sponsorship scandal, compounded by waning brand credibility, this budget may inflict an irrevocable body blow to the ailing Federal Liberals. As Ontarians dizzily awake to today's political realities, and the Common Sense Hangover sets in, poor, reactionary political choices will be made, and for this the Federal Liberals will suffer dearly. But, then again, that’s nothing new.



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