Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Facing Reality with Don Drummond

Facing Reality with Don Drummond

I try as much as possible to avoid being a total hypocrite. It is challenging when you publicly expose your opinion to scrutiny as I do. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as someone quoting you back at yourself to refute the point you are endeavouring to make (or unmake as the case might be). 

As a person who purportedly focuses on more provincial issues I would be terribly remiss to not speak to the Drummond Report released last week. 

For those not in the know Ontario is pretty much broke. The province has massive structural deficits and our debt is becoming quite monstrous. From the raw numbers Ontario’s fiscal health is not that dissimilar, so it seems to me, than European nations like the United Kingdom. To address the issues in the national finances Prime Minister David Cameron introduced a painful austerity budget, which is still reverberating back in the old Mother Country.

The scale and magnitude of the problem is quite daunting, so now it is up to our political leaders to find  solutions. Any suggestion that this particular can can be kicked down the road would be a distinct failure in leadership. As is pointed out in this Toronto Start article all of the political leaders in the Ontario Legislature has to face the stark reality of Ontario finances. Blaming Liberal spending, or corporate taxes or cherry picking the most digestible cuts is not going to suffice.

Back to why I don’t want to be a hypocrite. A few months ago I wrote on the on-going financial crisis in Europe, and, in a newfound Canadian economic smugness, advocated for the various nations of the world to get their houses in order. The Toronto Star compared Greece and Ontario to off-set the fear we are in the deep danger zone. I do not find the numbers particularly comforting. They are awfully close to Europe’s worst offender.

The most important aspect of the Drummond Report, at least from what I have read, is that it is not all about cuts. Mr. Drummond encourages the political leadership and the public to rethink how government works. It does not necessarily mean cuts, but simply how does government provide the services that it does. Healthcare and education are the obvious targets for consideration. Health spending consumes 42% of the budget. With a greying population that number will surely grow. So, we better get creative if we want to maintain the system as we like it.

It is incredibly difficult task to boil down a 668-page report to a blog post, especially given that mine rarely exceed 1000 words. There are apparently 320 recommendations in the body of the report. I am a lefty, and a member of the Ontario New Democratic Party. That being said, I also am fairly conservative fiscally. The elephantine debt Ontario amassed is unsettling to say the least, as is our chronic inability to balance the budget.

What I want most is for Ontarians to realize the dilemma we are facing and not revert to the status quo until the largest, and (formerly) richest province in Canada goes bankrupt. Other provinces are not far behind Ontario.

The worst thing that could happen is the public sour on notions of sacrifice. If we follow the example of our neighbours to the south, where fiscal sanity has long since vanished, and demand public services and no taxes, it will be the end. Our leaders have a real chance to reform Ontario and make it a stronger place. So, I will keep an open mind and shutter the demagogues as the Premier and Legislature tries to find a way to restore Ontario.

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