Recent deficit reduction track record is quite weak, which is why Ontario is still running an $8.5 billion deficit in 2015/16, several years after the recent recession.
According to the Globe and Mail, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has a new advisor, former TD Bank chief executive officer, Ed Clark. Mr. Clark will apparently advise the government on a host of issues including finding new sources of revenue to help balance the provincial budget.
Despite the talk of painful austerity, Ontario’s recent budget continues to bleed red ink. Finance Minister Charles Sousa projects a deficit this year of $8.5 billion, and doesn’t predict an actual balancing of the books until 2017-18 fiscal year.
How governments manage their finances matters a great deal. Spend and borrow too much and the result is a spiral of increasing deficits that create ever higher debt. Then, ever-more tax dollars end up spent on debt interest—not on education, health care, administering provincial courts, or other areas in which provincial governments are involved.
The other day former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, fumed at a column by economist Jack Mintz who noted the similarities between the current Kathleen Wynne government and Rae’s reign as premier of Ontario, specifically the “high deficits, debt and taxes.”
Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa called his updated financial plan a new direction but in truth it had a nostalgic feel. With his government facing considerable fiscal challenges including an $11.7 billion deficit and growing debt, Ontarians desperately needed a new direction. What they actually got was more of the same: increased spending and a government reluctant to deal with core problems.
Even Greece, the poster child for rampant debt, carried an Ontario-style debt load as recently as 1984
Don Drummond (2012) Commission on the Reform of Ontarios Public Services
I do not want Ontario to become like California Finance Minister Dwight Duncan once proclaimed. And it's not hard to understand why, California is a fiscal nightmare. It has the lowest bond rating in the United States and its own Treasurer, Bill Lockyer, referred to the state budget as "a fiscal train wreck." Yet, despite all that is said about California's finances in the media and financial markets, there is a Canada province that is in much worse shape. Welcome to Ontario.