GOLDBERG: Ford fails to deliver for Ontarians yet again

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If Ontario Premier Doug Ford was hoping to win over Ontario taxpayers disenchanted with three years of broken promises, this week’s fall economic update badly missed the mark.

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Ontario is awash in red ink.

Three-and-a-half years ago, Ford and his Progressive Conservative team was elected with a mandate to fix Ontario’s finances and lower the heavy tax burden faced by Ontario families.

This week, Ford waived the white flag.

There can be no doubt that the Ford government has faced a major challenge in the pandemic.

But this week, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy announced this year’s deficit would be higher than last year’s. Somehow, the Ford government has managed to increase last year’s $16.4 billion pandemic deficit to $21.5 billion for the current fiscal year.

Even the free-spending Trudeau Liberals are predicting a much lower deficit for this year than last.

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To make matters worse, this deficit increase is entirely driven by increased spending. Revenue is up from last year by $3.7 billion. Spending is up by $8 billion.

The Ford government’s fall economic update was the government’s second to last major opportunity to deliver on its tax cut agenda before the next election. But despite a $21.5 billion deficit, Ford failed to deliver on any of his tax cut promises.

There was no income tax cut. There was no gas tax cut. There was no tax relief for struggling businesses.

Instead, the best Ford offered Ontarians was a “staycation tax credit.”

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Does Ford really think Ontarians would prefer a “staycation tax credit” over an income tax cut or relief at the pumps?

The deficits the Ford government plans to run are also much too high. While current projections may be somewhat lower than they were in last spring’s budget, the Ford government still plans to add over $50 billion to the provincial debt over the next three years.

Ontario already has a $400 billion debt. The province spends over $1 billion a month on debt interest payments; that’s more than the province spends on post-secondary education.

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Ford’s deficit bonanza will only make things worse.

To add insult to injury, Ford and Bethlenfalvy don’t even have a plan to balance the budget. The words “balanced budget” can’t be found a single time in the text of the economic update.

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Ontarians can’t keep endlessly borrowing money without any plan to start paying it back. The government shouldn’t either.

The sad truth is the Ford Progressive Conservatives have no intention of balancing the budget. No government can balance the budget without a plan.

While one could quibble about exactly how long a balanced budget timetable should be, no Ontarian who cares about the financial future of this province should be satisfied with the government failing to present any timetable at all.

Ford promised Ontarians fiscal responsibility. He promised to stand up for taxpayers. Instead, Ford is leading the most spending-addicted government in Ontario’s history.

The Ford government claims it’s saying “yes” to the policy priorities of Ontarians while the opposition parties are saying “no.” But the government is only telling half the truth.

The Tories are saying “yes” to spending but “no” to the tax relief policy priorities of hardworking taxpayers across the province.

With the fall economic statement now tabled, Ford only has one major chance left to deliver for taxpayers before the next election — the 2022 budget.

Ford needs to seriously re-examine his approach to dealing with the province’s finances before he faces voters next June.

— Jay Goldberg is the Interim Ontario Director at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

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