Sousa’s bud­get boasts don’t add up to truth

The Observer (Sarnia) - - OPINION -

On­tario Fi­nance Min­is­ter Charles Sousa seems like a pleas­ant per­son, but he re­minds us of a used-car sales­man when­ever he’s sell­ing his upcoming bud­get.

One who doesn’t want you look­ing un­der the hood too closely while he’s mak­ing his sales pitch.

Last week, Sousa boasted to the Em­pire Club that his fifth bud­get on April 27 will demon­strate that, “On­tario is the lean­est gov­ern­ment with the low­est per capita spend­ing of any province.”

Um, that’s been true for On­tario gov­ern­ments go­ing back decades.

Since On­tario has the largest pop­u­la­tion of any province, it also has the ad­van­tage of economies of scale when de­liv­er­ing pub­lic ser­vices.

The Bill Davis Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment, for ex­am­ple, made ex­actly the same boast in 1981-82 as Sousa.

When the Lib­er­als are in power, they al­ways boast about de­liv­er­ing ser­vices at the low­est per capita cost of any province.

When they’re out of power, they al­ways blame the party in power for not spend­ing enough on gov­ern­ment ser­vices. (In fair­ness, all par­ties do it.)

What Sousa didn’t say is that the Lib­er­als have more than dou­bled On­tario’s debt to over $300 bil­lion since com­ing to power in 2003, which has made On­tario the most in­debted sub-sovereign (non-na­tional) bor­rower in the world.

He didn’t say the Au­di­tor Gen­eral and On­tario’s Fi­nan­cial Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice have warned the Lib­er­als that they have plunged the province into pre­car­i­ous lev­els of debt.

Sousa claimed the Lib­eral scheme to bor­row even more money from On­tario tax­pay­ers to sub­si­dize the elec­tric­ity bills of hy­dro ratepay­ers — even though they’re the same peo­ple — is “fairer be­cause it doesn’t ask today’s gen­er­a­tion alone to pay the en­tire freight.”

That ar­gu­ment turns gen­er­a­tions of fis­cally pru­dent think­ing — that you don’t stick fu­ture gen­er­a­tions with huge bills to pay for today’s ser­vices — on its head.

Fi­nally, Sousa re­peated, for the umpteenth time, that this year’s bud­get will be bal­anced, later adding along with “next year and the year af­ter that.”

Two prob­lems. First, Sousa is promis­ing to bal­ance a bud­get that won’t come down un­til af­ter the next On­tario election in 2018.

Sec­ond, in 2003, then Lib­eral leader Dal­ton McGuinty promised be­fore the election not to raise our taxes.

And we all re­mem­ber what hap­pened af­ter he won.

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