Column – Where Did the Money Go?

November 30, 2015

By Jim McDonell

 

The Ontario Liberals’ shenanigans continue to surprise even their biggest skeptics. Government messages are scripted to deliver an image of high moral ground, as leaks and documents reveal quite the opposite.

 

The Hydro One sale is a case in point. The story line is all about securing funds to build needed infrastructure – the same they neglected and procrastinated on for the past 12 years. Reading the Government’s financial documents, however, tells a different story. Hydro One transfers over $700 million annually to the provincial treasury. This revenue is being forgone for what the Financial Accountability Officer estimated to be a $1.4 billion net gain from the utility’s sale. From the two-year mark – conveniently close to the 2018 election cycle – the impact of the sale on the provincial budget is expected to turn negative.

 

In the meantime, the Government is placing revenues from the fire sale of Hydro One into its general revenue fund to make its interim fiscal figures look good. The funds have not been allocated to infrastructure spending or placed in trust for that purpose.

 

The provincial Liberals doubled the amount the Government receives from taxes and fees since coming to power, however they managed only to drive us deeper into debt.

 

Where did the money go? Billions have been wasted on major scandals such as E-Health, the ORNGE Air Ambulance Service and the gas plant cancellations in Mississauga and Oakville. The culture of waste, however, goes far deeper. Take, for instance, spending $7.9 million to develop a prosecutors’ information system (still not complete) when Alberta bought Manitoba’s system for $1. Another example is the dodgy payment of $3.7 million to unions for so-called “bargaining costs” when these same unions bankroll pro-Liberal advertising campaigns during elections. The Liberals sold Ontera and spent half a million dollars more in consultants than they earned from the agency’s sale.

 

Ontarians know the solution – nip the wasteful attitude in the bud and work to trim spending where it is needed. The Liberals, however, believe they just aren’t raking in enough cash.

 

The dreaded Debt Retirement Charge will stay on businesses’ bills until 2018 despite the charge collecting more than enough money to cover the debt it was supposed to pay off years ago. The proposed Cap and Trade system will impose costs upon businesses and consumers who can ill afford them. Ontario levies some of the highest estate taxes on grieving families in the country – 115 times higher than in Quebec. Our Leader Patrick Brown’s Bill to abolish the death tax was voted down by Government members. After starving municipalities by cutting provincial transfers, the Liberals are planning to levy another tax on home buyers, as Toronto does to its residents.

 

It is frustrating to see a Government so keen to ignore independent advice and throw money to the wind. It is our duty to continue standing up for common sense policies that would bring jobs, good public services and tax relief for all Ontarians.