Ontario is going to the polls in June and the electorate is being swamped with promises.
The polls currently show Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal party trailing behind the Progressive Conservatives led by Doug Ford. She may even be behind the NDP and Andrea Horwath.
Wynne and her finance minister Charles Sousa made numerous promises over the last week to the people of Ontario if re-elected.
Those promises consist of free daycare for preschoolers, free prescription drugs for all seniors, expanded mental health services, more support for special needs education, and the biggest annual increase in hospital spending in a decade.
Sousa said the 2018 budget will run a deficit of one per cent of the gross domestic product and will be potentially as high as $8 billion.
The Liberals said the added spending is necessary to help struggling Ontario residents.
Along with all these plans, a tax cut targeted at middle and lower income households is also possible.
A tax cut would serve multiple political purposes for the Liberals as it would compete with the tax cut already floated by the PCs and potentially outsmart the NDP’s plan for free dental care.
It also fits the theme that Wynne has advocated her time to lately: that people in Ontario are struggling to get by and need help to make life more affordable.
With money being allocated to these special services, especially at this time, it would seem like the Liberals are trying to get re-elected, announcing the new budget on the heels of the spring election on June 7.
If the Liberals are re-elected, Wynne would need to do something quite difficult. She would have to convince Ontarians to look beyond self-interest, and guide the party – which is continuing to fall in the polls – back on track.
Although Wynne’s recent plans for Ontario sound promising in theory, questions have risen as to where exactly the Liberal government will get the money to follow through and implement these promises in the event they are re-elected. The skepticism of their recent spending promises has been called out by the opposition as they believe these political moves are to get attention from voters.
Ford isn’t convinced by these plans.
“She’s trying to go and buy votes with money she doesn’t have,” he said. “She’s spending billions of dollars with other people’s money.”
Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk has also questioned the validity of the Liberal Government’s standards on the “Fair Hydro Plan,” citing the reduced 25 per cent electricity rates as “bogus.” She first called out the accounting methods of the Liberal Government last October, warning the Liberals’ hydro rate rebate could cost an additional $4 billion over the next 30 years.
If fellow politicians don’t believe these plans aren’t going to happen, why should voters believe in them?
According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Ontario’s current debt is over $311 billion, making the province one of the largest debts of any sub-national entity in the world. Its top line items are: health care, education, social services and debt interest.
And, even despite the benefits the budget could bring Ontarians, many of us will see no increase to our personal income tax this year, a critical concern that could far outweigh the need for provincial spending.
This could look bad for Ontario as people are taxed at a higher rate as the quality of life and deficit increase simultaneously. The thought the budget could have been announced much sooner cannot be helped, something the NDP’s Horwath has been particularly vocal about.
Horwath has called the budget “meager” and said it “would not undo the damage done by the Liberals.
“The Liberals have had 15 years and instead of helping, they’ve only made things worse,” she said.
With the election coming up fast it will be interesting to see who is elected and if it is Wynne, are we actually going to see these promises fulfilled?