With the Ontario government expected to soon introduce a new budget and the province continuing to head towards its own fiscal cliff, Premier Kathleen Wynne has a chance to make a clean break from the fiscal mismanagement of her predecessor, former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. To stem the tide of rising debt, Premier Wynne needs to initiate a radical re-think of current spending and put forth a credible plan to balance the budget in the short term. Lets hope she understands and embraces the need for change.
More than three years after the end of the recession and Ontarios provincial government continues to struggle with deficits, which as of the last quarterly update, will likely reach a staggering $14.8 billion. Relying on revenues to rebound enough to catch up with spending just doesnt work as Ontarios own history aptly demonstrates. Similarly, municipalities across the province continue to struggle to find sufficient resources for infrastructure needs while balancing their books.
Kathleen Wynne celebrated this week after winning the Ontario Liberal leadership and the premiers job. But now comes the hard part, finding a way to return Ontarios finances to a stable, sustainable path.
Part of the challenge facing Ms. Wynne is Ontarians indifference to the provinces deficits and debt. If the citizens of the province arent concerned about the over-spending, the deficits, and the accumulated debt that emerges from such spending, then we shouldnt be surprized to see politicians ducking hard decisions.
Earlier this year, the Ontario government sparked a fight with the provinces doctors when it announced plans in the government budget to freeze doctors wages. Now the fight is turning to a raging inferno as the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) plans to take the provincial government to court over the issue.
According to the province, the average doctor bill in Ontario was $385,000 last year; about 75 per cent more than in 2003 when the current government took power.
Once again the Ontario government is meddling with generic drug prices in a vain attempt to save a few bucks. Having dug itself into an enormous fiscal hole, the province just announced it will further lower the prices it pays for the 10 best-selling generic prescription medicines to 20 per cent of their brand-name equivalents, down from the current 25 per cent.
The recent federal and Ontario budgets produced a plethora of headlines about how the public sector should brace for changes to its costly pension deals. The dramatic language was in part provoked by lines like this from the Ontario budget: Pension costs are one of the fastest-growing line items and the status quo is not an option.
On Tuesday, Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan had one of those rare opportunities of which politicians can only dream. With his province heading toward a fiscal crisis caused by mounting debt and out-of-control spending, an opposition sympathetic to dealing with the problem, a public that clearly wants his government to address the debt, and news outlets that understand the need for significant fiscal restraint, everything lined up for Duncan.