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Budget is all spin no substance

(Queen's Park Report - April 4, 2012) Ontarians should be suspicious of Dalton McGuinty's latest provincial budget. Behind all of the rhetoric, the budget legislation shows it's all spin and no substance.

Take the so-called public sector wage freeze.  Listening to Mr. McGuinty you'd think he was clamping down on the rising salaries that account for 50 percent of Ontario's spending.  In truth, there is no mention of a wage freeze anywhere in the budget bill, it's just a ruse.  

Mr. McGuinty played the same trick in 2010 by promising a similar wage freeze, but then we learned of a secret pay hike for 33,700 Ontario civil servants.

Even the language is the same. Budget 2012 recycles the same promise of a public sector wage freeze from 2010.  Both documents say "The fiscal plan provides no funding for incremental compensation increases."  The only difference is in 2010 they said it on page 45, and in 2012 they saved it for page 70.

We know that it was a hollow promise in 2010, so why would any objective observer believe it this time?

For a so-called "austerity budget", it must also be passing strange to know that the deficit remains unchanged at $15 billion.  In fact, spending will go up by over a billion dollars in this budget.  How can anybody call that austere?

Then there is the promise of cuts to reign in the size and cost of government.  Mr. McGuinty claims that he's got $17.7 billion in so-called "savings" coming down the pipe to reign in years of extravagance.  In reality, the budget will only slow the rate of spending increases based on a 'what if' scenario where the Liberals apply their own historical rate of over-spending to the new parameters recommended by the Drummond Commission and then they claim to 'save' the difference.

A simple analogy would be like someone saying: "In December, I was worried I would gain 15 pounds this year.  As it turns out, I only gained 10 pounds.  So through austerity and hard work, I lost 5 pounds."  So you can say you lost weight, but you'll still need bigger pants.

The Liberals also claim that they will balance the books by 2017.  It's another lofty promise with no data to support it.  In this so-called "austerity budget", spending is set to go up in 14 of 24 ministries.

Recently, the Commission on the Reform of Ontario's Public Services said that the government must take "firm and early action" and act "swiftly and boldly" and implement "tough action" in order to stop the province from being plunged into annual $30 billion deficits.

Instead, the budget used words like: consider, seek input, delay, encourage, consult, review, setup a panel, seek advice, consult on the details, and help enhance.  This is the language of evasion; it is content free and meaningless.  

For those reasons, I cannot support this budget. Its claim to being an "an austerity budget" is simply false. It's all spin and no substance.

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