Toronto Star, August 20, 2011 “Cohn: Prepare for post-election pain, no matter who wins Ontario vote”
“Whoever forms the government on Oct. 7 is going to find themselves in a deep fiscal hole — there are going to be no surprises,” says Drummond, an economist and former senior federal bureaucrat. “The public, certainly, doesn’t completely understand it, and I don’t know whether the political parties completely understand it.”
Ontario’s budget deficit is $16.3 billion, and it’s accumulated debt exceeds $235 billion. In a pre-election budget report last month, auditor general Jim McCarter said there were no hidden deficits (like the infamous Tory budget of 2003). But he cast doubt on the Liberal government’s target of restraining program growth below 2 per cent, saying past performance belies that scenario.
Drummond counters that it’s possible to do things differently than in the past, to at least slow the rate of growth. However, PC Leader Tim Hudak is promising to go even further with 2 per cent cuts (apart from health and education) while still cutting taxes.
The Green Party proposes a variety of new approaches and ideas when it comes to challenging funding decisions. Some of them, such as the concept of a revenue neutral carbon tax balanced by income tax reductions as well as the merger of our two publicly funded school systems, may seem like harder sells to voters. However, the tax reform concept (the subject of an upcoming video address) has worked wonderfully in many other jurisdictions such as British Columbia, while the merger of our two publicly funded school systems, the Roman Catholic and the secular school boards, (which has also been implemented elsewhere in Canada including Quebec and Newfoundland) would reduce wasteful bureaucracy, transportation and infrastructure costs.
The notion of merging the school systems may seem shocking to some, but it is supported by a significant majority of Ontarians. During the last election campaign, CBC News reported that when polled, two thirds of those who registered an opinion supported such a merger (Ontarians want public, Catholic schools to merge: poll). As we make painful decisions about what services to cut, we will have to ask what we would prefer to loose: hospital beds, school libraries or a second school bureaucracy which unnecessarily duplicates hundreds of millions of dollars worth of expenses a year while effectively discriminating against non-Catholics in the admission of pupils and the hiring of teachers, a situation which has led the United Nations Human Rights Committee to find us in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
As a voter, that choice is yours. As a Green candidate, I can tell you that no other party will tackle these difficult decisions head on.