Well, it’s official: Ontario is richer than ever.
Last month, the Ministry of Finance released its final numbers on the provincial economy for 2014. As expected, Ontario’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is now bigger than ever. But what went unreported was this: Ontario’s economy per person is bigger than ever.
We really are richer than we think, to paraphrase that ad from Scotiabank.
If you listen to Premier Kathleen Wynne, you’d almost think the whole economy was on the rocks. It’s not. Economic growth today may not be as fast as in the past, but even when you adjust for inflation, Ontarians buy and sell more every day than we ever did.
So why is the government broke?
It’s not because it’s spending too much. As Wynne likes to brag, Ontario spends less per person on government programs than any other province in Canada.
So what’s the problem? If the economy is bigger than ever, where’s all that money going?
It’s not going to working people, that’s for sure. In most jobs, wages today aren’t much better than they were 20 years ago. More and more jobs are casual, part-time temporary jobs that don’t pay enough to live decently. And most of us have gone into debt to make up for the money we’re not making.
So if workers are broke, and government is broke, where’s all that money going?
There’s only one place it can go: corporate profits.
As reported by CIBC, corporate profit rates in Canada are at a 27-year high.
There is lots of money in this province.
But instead of calling on all those profitable corporations to start paying better wages and start paying their fair share of taxes to pay for the public services we all depend on, Kathleen Wynne is telling those companies, “Here, have some more.”
To take just one example, corporate income tax cuts under the Liberals have cost provincial coffers more than $9 billion since they started in 2010. But instead of putting corporate tax rates back where they were, Wynne wants to sell a majority stake in Hydro One. This will raise about (wait for it) $9 billion, she says.
In other words, if we hadn’t given tax cuts to banks and other profitable corporations, we’d already have the $9 billion Wynne wants to raise – and we wouldn’t be talking about selling our Crown jewels.
There is going to be a lot of labour strife in the public sector in Ontario in the weeks and months ahead. There should be. The idea that the province must cannibalize the wages of public sector workers to pay for public transit, or pay down the deficit, is nonsense. What we’re really being asked to do is fluff up the profits and incomes of people who already have more money than they know what to do with.
We don’t have to go along with this. Because as a province, we really are richer than they want us to think.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President/Treasurer, Ontario Public Service Employees Union