When It Comes To Liberals And Public Money, It's Always Five O'Clock Somehere
Visits to the Holy Land of southern Ontario are always instructive. Having lived there for almost 30 years it’s fun to go see pals like Steve Paikin, the non-pareil host of TVO’s The Agenda, to take the pulse of Toronto’s pearl-clutching elites. This visit coincided with the funeral for Rob Ford, who was made a non-person for trying to change the narrative as mayor of Hogtown.
You can catch my thoughts on the sea change in the attitude of Ford’s pursuers here. (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com/the-usual-suspects/2016/3/22/rla4uaybnbfg241st99157salo1osd)
The other prevailing sentiment in Toronto as spring stubbornly refuses to arrive is the sobering realization that Kathleen Wynne is still the saddle as premier of Ontario. That would be the same Kathleen Wynne the citizens of Ontario returned with a Liberal majority government in 2014.
Buyers’ remorse is as deep as the snow this week. Ah well, you say, they’ve only discovered a bunch of truly nasty things since the election. They’d have never elected her if they'd known she’d make Ontario the most indebted non-sovereign government in the world (greater than even California!).
Um… no. Ontarians knew all about the cronyism, record destruction, rent seeking, feather bedding and general Liberal incompetence even as they gave her the votes. The kick-the-can-down-the-road madness of delaying reality had been perfected by her predecessor Dalton McGuinty and polished to a fine sheen by Ms. Wynne. Anyone who says they weren’t warned is in a state somewhere between a coma and death.
And yet they still elected her for another four years of deficit financing laughingly meant to stimulate the economy— but which ends up in another downgrading of the province’s abysmal credit rating.
Why, you ask yourself? Why would sane people willingly tether themselves to the rail on the deck of the Pequod? Because it feels so damn good for the people of the TIFF to act smug and superior about their mastery of the universe. (How many Torontonians does it take to screw in a light bulb? One, because the world revolves around Toronto.) Neither one of them wants to be the first to say goodbye to the good times.
You see this delusion everywhere from the fetishization of the LCBO’s monopoly to the latest iteration of Ontario’s power monopoly to the East German state of the province’s infrastructure. Having to commit increasing billions to simple debt maintenance leaves scant resources to patch the disastrous highway grid and sewage systems. And causes more deficit wizardry. The entire place now seems to be run on land-transfers taxes from the forest of condos going up each day.
Again, why? Clearly, to elect someone else would be to admit that the grand experiment in Ontario’s progressive paradise since 2003 has been an failure. That demonizing the Common Sense Revolution was wrong. That the legions of cosseted Sunshine List worthies are not best to manage the affairs of Canada’s most populous province.
Mike Harris’ came close to derailing it all when he and the Progressive Conservatives relieved Bob Rae of the levers of power in 1995. Harris saw the Ontario government as a vast employment agency that ran a little political operation on the side. He set about paring its size. He was not polite about it. No bedside manner for the government employees who’d built a beach head on the public purse.
It was a close call for the ranks of the self-satisfied, but McGuinty rescued them from the evil Mike and his successor Ernie Eves. Happy days they were when the spigot on the provincial coffers was opened wide to a series of daft Green projects and ill-advised transportation schemes. There wasn’t an invented crisis they couldn’t throw money at.
The party carried on even when it was discovered that the virtuous Liberal grandees had blown $1.5 billion on a gas-fired power plant. Or when it was clear documents had been destroyed to hide the whole affair. Hey, you just can’t let a little financial hiccup spoil a good rave.
Now it’s evident to even to the most gullible on Bloor Street that it’s all been a shambles. The Liberal re-election was last call at the Endless Taxation Saloon. One final condescending snark to the grubby Ford types who predicted it would all end in rivers of red ink.
No more lecturing men in boring suits that it would all work out if they just expanded their imaginations. The boneyard awaits the insufferable technocrats who employed pedophiles to run the education system. The cabinet ministers who projected confidence and delivered cons. The whole mess will be sorted out by dreary accountants who have pictures of Harris on their wall.
Wait… what’s that? There’s a Liberal government in Ottawa that is just getting started with a debt party? That Justin Trudeau has picked the lock on the federal coffers and it’s raining millions for all the earnest projects that couldn’t be finished in Toronto? Sorry, have to end it here. It’s obviously five o’clock somewhere. I’m sure with just a little convincing they can get Justin to put his selfie pal Kathleen into the Senate.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy
Bruce's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience with successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013).