QP REPORT: A month of turmoil at Queen’s Park

SDSG MPP Jim McDonell. (MPP Office via Newswatch Group, File)

This October marks the 12th anniversary of the McGuinty/Wynne Liberals forming government. Over that timeframe, we have seen our provincial debt double to almost $300 billion despite the government’s revenue (mostly taxes) doubling to over $130 billion per year. Ontario, which was leading the country in 2004, is now a “have not” province and is receiving equalization payments.

October began with more bad news on the job front, losing 33,000 jobs. Unfortunately it’s been a nasty trend under Liberal rule: automobile assembly and parts manufacturing accounted for 1 in 5 jobs in 2001, now 1 in 8; forestry sector employment is down 52% since 2005; the agricultural sector has lost 18,000 jobs since 2006; and 2,500 hospital positions have been cut since 2010, in spite of the huge increase in demand due to our aging populations. A recent report from the Fraser Institute confirms that Ontario’s declining economy is a direct result of failed Liberal economic policy. Since the Liberals took power, Ontario’s economic growth has lagged behind the rest of Canada. It has the highest sub-national debt, among the highest energy rates in North America, and is burdened by red tape. Ontarians are leaving our province in search of jobs, and businesses are choosing to invest in other jurisdictions.

The sale of Hydro One has also been front and centre this month. Last Thursday, the Financial Accountability Officer (FAO) had his report leaked, identifying the sale to have a short term gain, with long term pain. His numbers show that the net profit could be as low as $1.4 billion and cost as much as $700 million in lost annual revenue. The government also refused the FAO access to documents that explained their calculations, citing cabinet privilege. The profit may help them balance the 2018 election budget, but it will cost the Ontario taxpayer dearly forever. Under their watch the energy file is in turmoil. November 1st represented another unaffordable hydro increase for Ontarians with the average customer paying approximately $53 more each year for hydro – an 8.7% increase for on-peak rates. In May of this year, ratepayers already experienced an average increase of $6 to their annual hydro bill. On-peak rates are now at 17.5 cents a kWh, which is four times the rate when the Liberals came to office. Moreover, with the upcoming cancellation of the Clean Energy Benefit in January – which provides a 10% reduction on electricity bills – customers will once again see their rates increase.

The Toronto Star broke the news that they had received a leaked document showing the Liberals had paid teachers’ unions a $1.0 million as part of their recent contract. As the story developed, the payment increased to $2.5 million and now as much $7 million, to allegedly cover costs incurred during negotiations. Meanwhile, last week the Globe and Mail reported that over the past three provincial election campaigns, teachers’ unions have spent more than $6.5 million to run negative ad campaigns and donated nearly $800,000 to the Liberals over the past decade. According to a Toronto Star editorial, this pattern of government payouts and election spending by unions gives rise to the perception that taxpayer money may have been spent in an effort to tilt the outcome of provincial elections. Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada that regulates third parties but doesn’t restrain their spending on political ads during elections. According to Ontario’s Chief Electoral Officer, Greg Essensa, the practice is so out of control that third-party groups are outspending political parties. All this is at a time when we are seeing cuts in the classroom and cuts in health care – where is their moral compass?

Jim McDonell
MPP, Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry

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