The economy is eroding and prices are soaring for consumers. Indeed, when compared to just twelve months ago, the mood of your average Ontarian is much grimmer when it comes to the economy. Most specifically, Ontario is regaining the dubious honour that it had twenty years ago when it became dead last in Canada and even dead last in North America in terms of economic growth. The largest province of confederation, uniquely challenged by its close affiliation with the United States’ service sector and high concentration of manufacturing sector jobs, is melting down before our very eyes.
So how does the Ontario government respond today with its annual budget? A bunch of fluff: a new programme to retrain 20,000 workers for new jobs; special tax cuts for Northern Ontario and squeaky wheel businesses that need to be taken off corporate welfare if they ever hope to actually contribute to (as opposed to leech off of…) the tax pool; continuing the ill-fated planning that all governments since the ’60s have done of making Toronto the centre of the universe through the transit system just when many businesses are choosing to move outside of Hogtown due to congestion and killer municipal tax rates; increasing welfare rates by 2% so as to give people using the programme every reason to stay on the government dole; and killing off any notion of a surplus with little pet projects while offering absolutely nothing to the overtaxed families of the province. This is how the provincial government of Ontario, which will in all likelihood come cap-in-hand to the feds later this year, intends to make Ontario economically competitive in a time of high uncertainty. Tinker here, grease that wheel there and hope for the best.
The facts don’t lie though and they’re clearly pointing to us becoming a “have-not” province; not something that should mean that the feds owe us something, but an indication that the leading economic growth that we experienced under Mike Harris has officially evaporated. You can’t blame oil for Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick out-pacing our growth here either. Nor should the feds do anything more as they at least took their surplus last year and put it to some good use by giving us the most competitive business taxes in the G7. Juxtaposed to Dalton? Well, at least the kiddies’ll have apples at school when they want them!
What’s saddest of all is that only now will people begin to realize just how foolish we all were to elect a super-majority government on the basis of an ill-advised opposition leader’s pet project; if nothing else, Dalton’s health tax should have assured his Liberals that they would only receive a minority mandate. The fun’s only begun though since we still have another three feel-good, do-nothing budget to go from these folks. I can only imagine what we’re in store for next year, when the 20,000 PhDs that Dalton trains this year realize that all the retraining in the world doesn’t mean a hill of beans when there’s no jobs out there to apply said training with!