Enough is enough.
You would think the sheer waste of taxpayer dollars through scandals and mismanagement would be enough to hang the Liberals.
Especially since, at the same time your money swirls down the toilet, the Liberals continue to run deficits (seven in a row) and pile up debt that your grandchildren’s children will still be paying off.
Yet in spite of their mistakes and outright lies (the hit parade includes: the billion-dollar gas plant cancellation and the failure to provide proper oversight of Ornge air ambulance expenses and out-of-control spending at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and elsewhere) they’ve managed to hold onto power for 11 years. How is that?
I’ll give you three reasons. (Hold on, it’s a long explanation.)
1. They buy votes with big spending promises.
George Bernard Shaw got it right. “A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”
When even the tax-the-rich NDP recognize that Ontarians are taxed to the hilt and refuse to put up with any “new taxes, tolls or fees that hit middle-class families,” you know Ontario must be in financial trouble.
Net debt is projected to climb to $269.2 billion for 2013–14 and hit $324.5 billion by 2017–18 (nearly 40% of Ontario’s economy). In fact, Ontario’s debt has more than doubled since the Ontario Liberals came to power in 2003–04 when the provincial debt stood at $138.8 billion (or 27.5% of the economy).
Interest payments are the third largest expense in the budget. And right now interest rates are low. When rates go back up, each point will add another $3 billion to our annual interest payment, points out economist Jack Mintz.
But in spite of repeated warnings about the need for spending cuts, from former Liberal finance minister Dwight Duncan (who conveniently woke up to the Ontario’s debt problem in his last few months in office) and public servants in Ontario’s finance ministry, what did the Liberals propose in the budget that forced an election?
Big spending promises, of course. Billions for schools and hospitals, roads and bridges, billions more for corporate grants, and millions for a smorgasbord of social services.
With this budget, the Liberals are in fact driving toward a deficit $2.4 billion higher(or 24% more) than they previously projected—in spite of hiking taxes by almost $1 billion. The deficits planned for 2015–16 and 2016–17 also increased by $1.7 billion and $1.8 billion.
In other words, the Liberals forecast spending to jump by $3.4 billion this year, $900 million more than projected in the 2013 budget, with program spending expected to climb by nearly $3 billion to $119.4 billion.
With Ontario already in a fiscal mess, the NDP (yes, the NDP, a party not known for financial responsibility), criticized the budget as “a mad dash to escape the scandals by promising the moon and the stars.”
2. They pander to unions, whose members make up a big chunk of the electorate.
The real beneficiary of the tax-and-spend Liberals has been the unions.
For starters, over half of Ontario’s program spending goes to pay public-sector workers their salaries and pension benefits.
What’s more, when the Liberals came into power in 2003, only 14,926 public-sector employees were making $100,000 or more. Today, 97,796 Ontario public-sector workers are on the so-called Sunshine List, an increase of 655% in just 10 years.
But, really, who can be surprised when about 70 percent of public-sector employees are unionized (compare this to the roughly 15 percent unionization rate in the private sector)?
The fact is the Liberals have pandered to unions, especially teacher’s unions, handing out massive, unaffordable pay hikes.
From 2003 to 2011, the McGuinty Liberals increased education spending by 45%, hiring 14,000 more teachers (up 10%) and increasing salaries by 24%—all while student enrollment actually dropped by 6%.
And teachers repaid the favour, “volunteering and voting for McGuinty’s Liberals in huge numbers during the past three elections.”
But following a narrow election win in 2011 (voters were angry over broken promises and higher taxes), McGuinty shifted direction, proposing to freeze teacher wages for two years and curb benefits to reduce the government’s alarming $14.4 billion deficit.
The teachers reacted with predictable outrage.
So despite all their talk about austerity, the Liberals just couldn’t say “no” to their vote-rich cash cow.
While the McGuinty government was calling for wage freezes publicly, it secretly negotiated a three percent wage increase with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents 35,000 voters, er, government workers.
And forget about Kathleen Wynne taking a firm stance on public-sector wages and benefits.
In a clear bid to win back union support, one of her first moves as premier was to negotiate an LCBO contract that gave 7,000 unionized workers a $1,600 signing bonus over two years—about $9 million— and wage increases of two% in 2015–16.
Her education minister also renegotiated new contracts with the province’s two biggest teachers unions, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, offering better maternity benefits, fewer unpaid days off, and an improved “sick-day bank.”
And the quid pro quo?
Millions of dollars spent on attack ads directed exclusively against Tory leaders in Ontario’s 2003, 2007, and 2011 elections—by a powerful coalition of special interest unions that includes the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, the Canadian Auto Workers, and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation and calling itself the Working Families Coalition.
The so-called Working Families coalition first “came together in 2003 to discredit then Tory premier Ernie Eves and get Dalton McGuinty elected.” Their ad campaigns had such a big impact on the election results, they followed up with more of the same in the 2007 and 2011 elections. For this campaign, they’re just getting started, but expect a barrage of attack ads aimed squarely at Tim Hudak.
The coalition’s negative ads effectively doubles the advertising budget of the Liberals at the expense of the Tories through loose election laws around third-party advertising. Unlike political parties, third parties “can spend as much as they want, take contributions as large as they want and keep their financial backers hidden until long after the campaign is over.”
In Ontario’s 2011 general election, Working Families spent $1.6 million to help the Liberals.
Other big spenders included the Elementary Teachers’ Federation—$2.6 million—and the English Catholic Teachers’ Association, which spent $1.9 million to help defeat the PC party. For comparison’s sake, out of 21 registered political parties, only two spent more than $2 million on advertising. The Elementary Teachers’ Federation, the biggest third-party advertiser, spent more on advertising than nineteen political parties combined.
Spending records for the 2007 election (the first year third parties had to register with Elections Ontario) show a similar story. A shocking “90 per cent of the $2.3 million raised by third-party advertisers for the 2007 campaign went to organized labour or groups opposed to specific Tory policy positions.”
Plainly, Ontario’s election laws are giving Liberals with their deep-pocketed union allies an unfair advantage.
3. They reward party insiders with lucrative contracts.
In Ontario, it’s not what you know, but who you know.
From eHealth Ontario and Cancer Care Ontario to the Local Health Integration Networks, the Liberals have a history of rewarding party loyalists with “cushy, untendered contracts” and well-paid appointments.
In 2004, Mike Crawley, the then-president of the Ontario Liberals, was awarded awind power contract that guarantees his company AIM PowerGen $66,000 a day for 20 years. That’s a total of $475 million dollars.
In 2010, nearly two-thirds of the $68 million of taxpayers’ money spent on the 14 LHINs went to cover the salaries and remuneration of government-appointed board members.
Pat Dillon, the business manager of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council and the head of the infamous Working Families Coalition, has received a number of appointments—to Premier Wynne’s Transit Panel, the Ontario College of Trades, the WSIB Board, Infrastructure Ontario, and more.
The Globe and Mail recently reported that Ontario Liberal friends and allies were awarded millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded contracts because of loopholes in the rules surrounding government expenditures. The report goes on to say that, “while there is no indication that any of the transactions were illegitimate, the lack of transparency makes it difficult to determine what services were provided at taxpayers’ expense.”
The sad truth? It pays to be a friend of the Liberals. Ontario taxpayer, not so much.
The Ontario Liberals are long past their best-before date
After 11 years, it’s time to hold the Liberals to account.
Imagine if some pimply-faced thug robbed a gas station and got caught, he’d get what? A thousand dollars tops and some jail time.
But the Liberals who have “stolen” billions of taxpayer money through incompetence and cronyism remain unpunished.
It’s time to throw the Liberals out. They’ve inflicted enough damage on the province. It’s time they answered for their crimes against taxpayers.