Experts say COVID-19 cannot account for all of the provinces poor fiscal position, however, and that tough choices must be made.
“Its disturbing,” Philip Cross, senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI), tells The Epoch Times, noting that Ontario “had a very high level of debt before this crisis.”
“You compare the fiscal numbers for Ontario and Quebec and its just shocking. Ontarios numbers are more than twice as bad as Quebec. And I just dont see that this government has explained to people why our fiscal situation is so much worse than Quebec.”
Ontarios 2020–21 First Quarter Finances report projected a deficit of $38.5 billion, up from $20.5 billion projected in March. Adjustments include $10.8 billion less tax revenue, $13.1 billion more spending, and $17 billion more in direct responses to COVID-19. On the positive side, federal transfers will be $6.2 billion higher than first expected.
Quebecs deficit is projected at $14.9 billion. The province of 8.5 million has had over 61,000 cases of COVID-19. Ontario has had more than 40,500 cases among its population of 14.7 million.
“Theres no indication this government really understands the financial straits Ontario finds itself in and is prepared to take the actions needed to,” Cross says. “Just the opposite, they seem to be just continuing the same policies that the Liberals started.”
A recent column by Cross, who spent 36 years at Statistics Canada specializing in macroeconomics, lamented that the province still buys green energy at high prices and had renewed failed Liberal policies of subsidizing residential hydro customers.
He says many in Ontarios public sector are overcompensated, especially through defined-benefit pension plans.
“I always thought that its a bit ridiculous: Were asking people in the private sector, most of whom dont even have a pension … to pay taxes so that the civil service can have [defined-benefit pension plans], especially teachers [who] can retire after 30 years in this province,” he says. “The average hydro worker in this province makes well over $100,000. I dont think were getting value for money in that.”
A $9 billion deficit was projected for 2020–21 prior to the pandemic. The fiscal update expects that direct measures to address COVID-19 will cost $30 billion.
“We were on track to balancing the provinces budget. We had to make a swift about-face in March … and today were talking about a $38.5 billion deficit,” Finance Minister Rod Phillips said on Aug. 12 upon releasing the First Quarter Finances report.
“Right now, the priority needs to be to provide the resources that are required.”
Premier Doug Ford defended the spending on pandemic measures and acknowledged that balancing the budget in his first term in office as he had planned wasnt going to happen.
“Im going to be very frank,” Ford said on Aug. 12. “It was a whole different situation six months ago compared to now. But were going to continue to be very fiscally conservative [and] responsible.”
Jasmine Moulton, Ontario director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said in a press release that while its to be expected that spending in certain areas such as health care would need to be increased due to the pandemic, “some of this spending is completely unreasonable and flat out wasteful.”
In an email to The Epoch Times, Moulton wrote, “Ontarians desperately needed the government to fix its spending problem before COVID-19, but the government seems to have doubled down on its big spending ways in the aftermath of the economic crisis.”
Ontarios combined federal and provincial debt in theRead More – Source