The Tory gong show has started
Here we go! The type of outright nonsense that has become commonplace in Washington didn’t take long to start at Queen’s Park.
First, Premier-elect Ford called Ontario’s successful and effective carbon-reducing cap-and-trade program a ‘carbon tax,’ which it is not. Carbon auctions reward non-polluting firms, who are then able to be price-makers in their respective markets. Then Ford killed the equally-successful Green ON program that re-invested the proceeds of carbon auctions into energy efficiency programs for consumers and businesses alike. Had a workable idea on how to keep greenhouse gas emissions out of the atmosphere at home or at work? The Green ON program helped you implement it, and polluters paid for the cost. The Ontario taxpayer and the environment got the benefit completely free!
But of course, that’s now gone.
Ford says he will easily find $6 billion of ‘efficiencies,’ which is code language for cuts, within Ontario’s $150 billion budget. Really? Some 85 percent of that budget is transfer payments: to cities; to school boards; to police forces; to needy, disabled and disadvantaged people. That leaves $23 billion within which to find $6 billion in cuts. Are the Tories really saying they will cut more than one dollar in four in government spending? Are they kidding us?
Cutting taxes raises oil consumption
Ford said he is putting global oil companies ‘on notice’ on pump prices for gasoline. Did they lose a lot of sleep in Calgary, Houston and in the Persian Gulf over that empty threat? Everywhere that regions, cities and countries have tried to manipulate or freeze pump prices for gasoline, those prices have moved higher. The oil companies respond to a cut in taxation of their product by filling in the tax void with a price hike, and a fatter profit margin for them.
Why are oil prices higher this year? Because the demand for oil is greater than the supply of crude. The world is burning more oil than ever, at any time before. Want to reduce prices, and keep them going down. Push down on the demand side of the market. That means energy efficiency programs (such as the now-cancelled Green ON), and aggressive measures to curb carbon fuel use (such as cap-and-trade). The lower the demand for the product, the faster its price will fall.
Cutting taxes on petroleum products will have the exact opposite effect. It rewards extravagant consumption, raises demand, and causes oil prices to rise. Is that really what you voted for?
Stiffing the caucus
I really enjoyed the reports of Ford hosting his caucus and stiffing them on lunch. In fact, he bought pizza from his personal funds. Just what you want after a long election campaign: more pizza. Let’s play this out. Ford is going to make his government caucus go outside to buy lunch on days when the Legislature is always pressed for time. It is already difficult enough to get a meeting started when the Legislature’s caterers bring in their normal fare: soup and/or salad; a main course that is usually healthy; a cheese and crackers tray, and some sweet stuff for dessert plus coffee, tea and/or some soft drinks and milk. Remember, you have between five and six dozen people to feed during about an hour, and then everyone has to get to committees, or back into the Legislature.
If Ford wants his Members to forage for food at the two cafeterias, and the Legislative Dining Room before they discuss business on Monday and Tuesday, reality will strike home quickly enough. It looks like the first people to get stiffed in Ford’s austerity drive are his own caucus. Even Tuesday caucus meetings usually stretch nearly the full time between noon and 3:00 p.m. with all the presentations and discussion that happens.
War against the public service
The incoming Tories have said they will freeze new hires in the Ontario Public Service. In fact, during the past 15 years, the size of the public service has been going down, not up. And Ontarians, on a per-capita basis, have the fewest public servants, and the lowest cost for government, of any province in Canada.
Back in 2012, the Province commissioned a comprehensive review of the delivery of public services and programs by former TD Bank Chief Economist Don Drummond. More than 85 percent of Drummond’s recommendations were implemented during the past six years.
It is true that we need more doctors, nurses and teachers to cope with a growing population. Are the Tories going to cut those positions? Those types of positions are paid through transfers to hospitals, cities, school boards and the justice system.
Ford also says he is is (somehow) going to curb out-of-province travel. Let’s look at an example of how one gets to travel out of Ontario on business. To visit Kenora, Ontario, the most cost-effective, quickest and best way is to fly to Winnipeg, rent a car, and drive east to Kenora. But to do so requires cabinet office approval already. The reality: the measures Ford is carrying on about have existed for years.
Read the news reports in the months to come. There will be lots more of this nonsense to ooze out of Queen’s Park.