A Response to the 2019 Ontario Budget
ONTARIO BUDGET 2019 – A response from Ontario Libertarian Party Leader, Rob Ferguson (Paraphrased by Chris Swift, Member at Large)
Budget day in Ontario has been a day almost everyone pays attention to annually. After the Liberals spent years overspending, mismanaging and breaking promises, Ontario has been ready for change for quite some time. This was made clear in the June 2018 General Election when Ontario not only voted for Doug Ford’s PCs but sent Ontario Liberals a pink slip. This week’s first budget from Ontario PCs’ majority government was delivered and some of what it contained came as no shock or surprise. Other parts we were left wondering “I wonder how that will work?”, “how will that be better?”, or simply “why?”
Doug Ford’s approach is to have a slow return to balance based on restraining the nominal spending growth rate while waiting for revenues to catch up and eliminate the deficit over time. An amount of time that surpasses their current mandate. The Progressive Conservatives have established their baseline by accepting the elevated spending level of the previous Liberal government. Based on the PCs’ budget, they will spend $5M more than the last Liberal budget. Tackling the budget is a process of controlling spending and balancing the needs and wants of the province.
The position of the Ontario Libertarian Party, as part of our most recent platform, is that we would balance the budget immediately and execute a debt repayment plan over the course of 30 years. We would have accomplished this by ending all government subsidies including corporate, not for profits and to individuals, among other things. How you balance the budget is by stopping wasteful spending and getting government out from where it doesn’t belong. Our plan would have been much different from the one Doug Ford presented for Ontario. In the past, when the Liberals tried the same approach as the PCs, the gap was so large, it was like taking two steps forward and eleven back.
Some aspects of education that I’d like to comment on are: As part of the PCs’ budget, post-secondary student assistance spending will go down from $2B to $1.4B. Many people might wonder how limiting resources for student assistance from government helps students. It is not the responsibility of government to ensure people go to college or university. By opening the market (I mean TRULY opening the market), you would see everything from payday loan places to local businesses offering loans and grants. Colleges and universities are overcrowded with people who have no interest in using their diploma for effectual employment, only adding to the debt through borrowing. If government was not in the position of offering grants and loans, demand for economically beneficial education would rise. This would also increase the productivity and grades of the students at these levels and we would inherit better graduates entering the province’s workforce.
There is much chatter of late about cuts to teachers’ jobs and funding for education. Our recent platform for K-12 education included attaching the funding to the student rather than to the school through its regional board. This is the surest way to create efficient, productive competition in education. Public, private, home and other forms of schools would all receive the same amount for per student enrollment. Parents would be able to choose a school based on performance rather then geographic location as it is now. Reality is that this will allow for a reduction in costly bureaucracy within school boards and drive down costs to the portfolio. This is why I feel we have the best message, which focuses on putting parents back in charge when it comes to education.
As part of the budget, the PCs have introduced some changes to legislation that governs alcohol. Rules around the consumption and sale of alcohol are changing, and the government says it’s working on even more reforms related to the issue. The province says it will introduce legislation allowing municipalities to pass laws permitting people to drink in parks or other designated public areas. It is also permitting licensed establishments like bars, restaurants and golf courses to serve alcohol starting at 9 a.m. (24/7), and says it will consult on extending the hours further. The PCs will extend allowing beer and wine to be sold at some corner stores, grocery stores and big box stores. Although these changes appear to be a step in the right direction, it still allows for government to control, regulate and profit from Ontarians. Libertarians believe that we should end government monopolies and allow for a true, free and open market. If a Canadian wants to walk down the street with an open container, they should be allowed to. When it comes to private property, government should have no say as to when and how a business can operate. The LCBO offers nothing but high pricing and selected, limited variety. Some insight as to how large a monopoly it is: it is the largest single entity buyer of alcoholic products world-wide. Ending corporate welfare to larger breweries will also be key in the smaller breweries succeeding, driving that sector of the economy.
Discussed before the budget’s release, a new $89K government logo will be replacing the “three men in a hot tub” logo used for trillium funds, introduced by former Premier Dalton McGuinty in 2006 at a cost of $219,000. The PCs will also be producing new license plates for general and commercial vehicles with slogans “A Place to Grow” and “Open for Business”. This is a prime example of government wasting tax dollars completely unnecessarily, no matter the price tag.
The province says it will create a "competitive market" for online gambling. They claim that current prohibitions on the activity in the province is sending revenue to so-called "grey market" websites. In turn, they want to control it through the OLG, another government monopoly. What is competitive about that? Again, only a true open market without government interference is the solution here. It would provide freedom of choice as to where and how citizens use their own money. As with anything, competition is key to better pricing and efficiency.
The provincial government stated it will be fighting gun crimes and gun-related violence by investing $16.4M over two years to create a province-wide community safety strategy. They will also be giving $25M to the City of Toronto to combat gun violence. Gun control is always a heated issue but not to libertarians. This is a logical issue. Most gun legislation falls to federal levels and provincial governments passing legislation will have little effect on crimes committed by violent offenders. The truth is violent criminals will continue to ignore these laws but in the hands of responsible, trained, law-abiding citizens, guns are merely a tool for protection of their liberty, family and property.
Some points on health care: The government will be providing 15,000 long-term care beds, upgrading to modern design standards, at a cost of $1.75B over the next five years. They are also planning a new $90M plan to establish a new dental program for seniors that make less than $19K per year. The key here is to lower the cost and expense of living so that taxpayers aren’t fronted the bill for a socialized medical program that will only increase wait times and expenses for the rest of the general public. The cost of this plan can be greatly reduced by getting government out of the equation of many aspects of our lives and the economy. The free dental plan for seniors again appears as a vote buying type move. This is a similar idea that many of PCs’ supporters criticized when the Liberals and NDPs proposed it in their election campaigns. A better way of serving the people of Ontario would be to attach OHIP funding to the individual, allowing them to choose either different private plans that work better for them or by staying with the current system but having more freedom of choice as to how their money is spent. If dental is a main concern to the individual, they could have dental included in their private plan, have their OHIP allotment redirected to pay for that plan and this would come at no added costs to the taxpayers. In fact, it would stand to save taxpayers money in the long run.
Some notable inclusions in this budget include that from the Transportation portfolio. The biggest shocker is that the citizens of Ontario are slated to front the bill for a $28.5B transit network plan, including four projects, all of which are dedicated to the Greater Toronto Area. If demand is so great for public transit in one or even a few communities, surely it shouldn’t be the entire province that needs to pay for it. This is another great example of mob rule and wasteful collectivist spending that does not appeal to the majority of the taxpayers of Ontario. This is doubly interesting because the PCs have now abandoned the plan for a high speed rail line extending from Windsor to Toronto, which was proposed at roughly the same cost. While we still don’t agree with that plan which was the Liberals’ because the rest of the province still shouldn’t be paying for it and because of property rights violations within rural communities, this just screams GTA vote-buying tactics.
The last issue I will touch on is with the CFSA under the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. Family services (old CAS) have had a budget ranging from $1.4B to $3.5B and climbing. This is an astronomical amount of money dedicated to an out of control agency that largely employs unqualified individuals and is bloated with mismanagement. Much like what the SPCA is doing, CFSA needs hand over all investigative and disciplinary practices to Police, whom are more qualified to operate in this capacity. Every year, thousands of families are destroyed by this organization and we seek to return the rights of all affected individuals, including but not limited to starting with an ability to face accusers in Court.
Overall, some of the Ford budget shows steps in the right direction. However, we are not seeing nearly enough from a party that claims to be more fiscally responsible than the last sitting government. Most libertarians believe that the four main parties (PCs, Liberals, NDPs and Greens) are truly the same. It’s about control and dictating how to live. It’s about how to spend your money and how to benefit nobody but themselves and their friends. The only relief for Ontarians and Canadians is by electing Libertarians. We need your support to grow our voices and our presence even larger. Come EXPLORE NEW POSSIBILITIES with the Ontario Libertarian Party.