2014 Budget – Fairy dust, unicorns and unfunded promises
The Liberal budget shows us the true cost of the failure to have an honest conversation about how to pay for Ontario’s future.
The budget over-promises, under-delivers, and uses magic money to fund the transit infrastructure Ontario desperately needs.
It is clear that the NDP’s opposition to being honest about how to fund transit pushed the government to deliver a fairy dust budget -- more fantasy than reality, funded by borrowing now and crossing our fingers that we’ll not have to pay it back until after some future election.
Ontarians need to know that the biggest increase in spending over the next three years -- 7.9% -- will be interest on debt, with social services at 3.5% and overall program spending increasing 1.1%.
An additional $1 billion a year for transportation, however much needed, is not going to break Ontario out of gridlock, which is costing us $6 billion a year and is Ontario’s biggest source of greenhouse gas pollution.
Instead of an honest plan about how much the transit that we need will cost and how to pay for it, the budget mostly repurposes existing money and borrows more. There is no mention of land value capture, additional fuel taxes, congestion charges or even corporate taxes to pay for transit needed in communities across Ontario.
Our children will bear the biggest burden of this failure.
$11 billion over ten years to fix the cracks in hundreds of schools sounds like a good start. But it’s not the overhaul our education system needs.
Merging the school boards would give us up to $1.6 billion a year in savings -- money that could do more than paper over cracks. None of the status quo parties are willing to touch what is increasingly an issue of grave concern to Ontarians.
This budget does not support the small businesses that the Finance Minister mentioned over and over in his speech. The budget fails to foster job creation in your community by lowering payroll taxes on small businesses. This could be paid for by a small increase in corporate taxes on Bay Street profits. The budget did, however, commit some money for local food processing, which was supported by a Green Party petition.
The Liberals continue to play politics with electricity bills by keeping their 10% subsidy for domestic electricity bills, which costs $1.1 billion a year and mostly benefits the wealthy. The NDP would add another $440 million to that tab in the form of $100 hydro handouts to every electricity customer. This money should be spent on more urgent needs.
It’s outrageous that the Liberals are selling off our natural resources at rock bottom prices when the province has a $12.5 billion deficit. The people of Ontario deserve their fair share of the province’s resource wealth. Ontario could raise over $1 billion per year by increasing royalties and levies for mining, aggregates and water taking.
Our government needs to have the courage to be more honest with the people of Ontario. A government should not fall because it fails to include enough bonbons in the birthday party loot bag that budgets have become. But it should not survive because it hides the real costs and avoids the big questions facing Ontarians as we go forward.
We should expect better.