It happened in the last Nova Scotia election. It happened in the last New Brunswick election. It’s happening in the Ontario election.
The happening is the systematic refusal of all political parties to level with the voters by intelligently discussing fiscal circumstances.
Shortly after the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick elections, the newly elected governments told the truth – but only after the elections were over. During the campaigns, they had made the usual assortment of good-news promises that all serious observers knew would be delayed or scrapped. Sure enough, very shortly after taking office, the new governments said: Our provinces are in dire straits, and we’ll need serious spending measures and/or tax increases to escape.
Ontario’s last budget forecast deficits for another five years. Within the past eight years, the province’s debt has skyrocketed by 85 per cent. The province’s unemployment rate is now higher than Quebec’s, and so is the provincial deficit. But whereas the Quebec government has been facing the fiscal music, Ontario’s has been whistling past the graveyard. The result has been the fiscal enfeeblement of Ontario and the fiscal strengthening of Quebec.
The last provincial budget was built on sand. It forecast extremely optimistic growth – well over 3 per cent this year and beyond. Today, it would appear that Ontario will be lucky to see 2 per cent, and things might be worse.
Slower growth means higher deficits and more debt, unless something is done. Instead, the parties have been making spending promises and promising reductions in taxes or fees.