So I guess the June 12 election didn’t exactly make things better for Ontario.
That’s what came to mind when I read Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s November 17 update on provincial finances. Sousa confirmed that economic growth and job creation are slowing. Government revenues are lower than expected. And this year’s budget deficit will be higher than last year’s.
Liberal spin says everything is looking up, but sometimes you have to state the obvious: Liberal policies are failing. They are failing our economy. They are failing family incomes. And they are failing everyone who depends on public services – which is everybody.
Yet Sousa’s prescription for success is to do more of the things that are failing.
The Liberals have four core policies on the economy and the budget:
- Low taxes on corporations. Forget about the changes in the last few years that boosted some taxes, especially those on high-income earners, when the Liberals still cared what the NDP thought. Those changes were small potatoes compared to more than $8 billion a year in cuts to business taxes from the HST, the elimination of the Capital Tax, and cuts to corporate income taxes. The result? Less money for public services. More money for rich corporations who are already sitting on more than $630 billion in cash.
- Cuts to public services. The Liberals don’t seem to get that when you cut public services, you cut the economy at the same time. But like medieval doctors who thought bleeding the patient would cure just about anything, the Liberals just keep on cutting. But the patient is getting sicker.
- Privatization. Like their tax policy, Liberal policy on privatization is designed to transfer wealth to private interests who see public services as just another profit centre. Sure, it costs more, delivers less, and pushes up the deficit, but that’s beside the point.
- Infrastructure investment. I’m all in favour of spending more money on public infrastructure – we need it – as long as we aren’t overpaying private investors to finance it. But I think it’s worth noting that a big chunk of that money goes to the profits of the same people who fund the Liberal party. Plus, infrastructure isn’t the only thing we need. There’s a publicly-funded boom in the (mostly male) construction sector right now, but there’s a publicly unfunded recession in the (mostly female) public sector. It’s not too much to ask for a little fairness.
The bottom line is that the first three policies are failing utterly and the last one could be better.
So what’s the solution? Well, step one is to stop doing the wrong things. Step two is to reverse course. Let’s get back the tax dollars we’re now spending on pampered corporate CEOs. Let’s put those dollars into public services – and get the economy rolling again.
Let’s stop privatization, improve services, and save money at the same time.
Because more of the same won’t give us different results. We can make things better for Ontario.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union