COLUMN: Peanuts

MORRISBURG — Peanuts. That was the word used last week by Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals on the reimbursement of union expenses for negotiating employment contracts. 2.5 million dollars in reimbursed expenses, for board rooms, hotels, and food. Peanuts; paid for by the government; paid by you, the taxpayer.

It is not just that the expense reimbursement is wrong, but that we all get to pay for this. The Liberals first argued that other union negotiations, even in the private sector, have the employer cover the costs for the union. What the private sector does has no relevance on this, businesses are free to negotiate how they wish. What is relevant is that the government chose to use tax money, our money, in this way.

When questioned further, Minister Sandals, followed by Premier Kathleen Wynne, brought out the big guns. The tarnished pony. He who will be forever known as the Boogeyman of Ontario, Mike Harris. Mike Harris did it when he was in power, only he did it far many more times. The fact the Liberals did it now is inconsequential because Harris did it before them. The Liberals only spent peanuts compared to Harris. That makes it all okay. No it does not. Stating a past government followed a bad practice and you followed it, but was less bad at it, does not make it good.

If the government can spend 2.5 million dollars on refunding union expenses, maybe they could afford a calendar to see what year it is.

This is 2015. The Ontario Liberal Party won power on October 2, 2003 meaning the party has been in power for just over 12 years. Mike Harris has been out of office since April 14, 2002, or 13 and a half years. When will the Ontario Liberal Party start taking responsibility for their own bad practices and stop blaming the boogeyman?

The quick answer is that they wont, and that is what is scary. It is easier to blame someone who has been out of power for over 13 years, than fix the real problem within government, attitude.

Peanuts, as spoken by Minister Sandals is not just 2.5 million dollars. It is 2 billion for a broken eHealth system. It is a billion for Ornge Air Ambulance. It is billions in waste from this government over the 12 years it has been in power. And you are not allowed to question this, because the party, the government, knows best. 2.5 million, 2 billion, who cares, it is the government’s money. It is a flippant, arrogant, condescending attitude by this government and it is wrong. It is not the government’s money; it is our money.

Private corporations can spend their money how they like, it is their money. When handling public money, government is not allowed to be flippant. Not when this government has the largest sub-sovereign debt in the world, and a budget deficit still in the billions. A box of donuts and some coffees from Tim Horton’s in a government-owned building is all we can afford. That is peanuts.

Government; this government; needs to stop being flippant with our money. 2.5 million is not peanuts; it could fund 43 nurses for a year; 65 educational assistants in schools for a year. That money could fund a thousand things more productive than reimbursing union costs.

2.5 million dollars is not peanuts. Premier Wynne, Minister Sandals and the Liberal government should return to math class to learn the value of a dollar and stop wasting the public’s money.

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