The good thing about the forthcoming provincial election is that it allows everyone to play in the “blood sport” and voice their opinion. Political pundits, media commentators, editorial boards and just about everyone who has a taste for the game brings an insight or view to some part of the election process. Each new poll triggers a Pavlovian response among many of analysis and debate revealing both the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s platform.
What I find staggering is the lack of interest or debate on the actual cost of running government operations, how the promises translate into real dollars. Just look at what’s happening around the world. Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain are reeling from the high cost of social services among many of their respective issues.
We don’t even have to look across the pond. Just look at the City of Toronto’s budgetary review process. What happened to Ford’s campaign promise to clean up City Hall or cut programs? You know the City will be appealing to the province for bailout funding as they have done each and every year.
Armed with all this information, it is hard to understand why no one asks the question, “How do you plan to reduce the deficit of about $17 billion and lower the provincial debt of about $200 billion without raising taxes or cutting programs?” Government workers, doctors, nurses, school teachers, college and university teachers and support staff will all be looking for increases whether in salaries or benefits. Our roads and bridges still need to be maintained and replaced and the list goes on, but we keep hearing no new taxes.
Yet, our provincial political leaders all promise no tax increases and no program cuts. Maybe our political leaders will play out plan B and blame the Federal Government for not giving Ontario its fair share of equalization payments.
Maybe our provincial political leaders are more skilled mathematicians than we are, or maybe they have information we ordinary citizens don’t possess. In any case the average Ontarian could not run his or her household using the same mathematics. Blame it on malfunctioning calculator or the ostrich syndrome, but at some point someone has to ask the question, can our provincial political leaders really make no tax increase promises without some accountability? Carrying deficits and debts into the next decade just somehow doesn’t appear to be an acceptable answer.
Regardless of who wins the provincial election October 6th, I think we all know “things happen” to cause previously made election promises to get side-tracked. It happens after every single election! Is it so surprising that most of us simply don’t expect much from our political leadership?
We should be asking politicians the tough questions of how are we going to pay for things and hope we receive an honest answer – am I hopelessly naïve?
Harvey Nightingale is a senior associate in the Toronto public affairs at Hill+Knowlton Strategies.