On October 2nd, 2013, the Liberals will mark ten years as the government of Ontario. In a speech to party members in Hamilton, Ontario last weekend, Premier Wynne indicated that she was not going to let anyone “diminish our accomplishments or rewrite the history of our contributions.” Wynne then went on to say, “The Ontario Liberal Party turned this province around.” Wow. We understand that it was a speech to the party faithful and as she admitted afterwards in her press conference, in a minority parliament the parties are in constant campaign mode. So we’ll give the Premier some slack for her comments that could be construed by some as being a bit over the top.
With that being said, there are numerous items in the areas of education and healthcare that the governing Liberals should be given full credit for. In those two areas we can say that the Liberals have made substantial improvements that have positively impacted the quality of life for all Ontarians. That’s not to say that there still isn’t more to do in these areas. Some critics have argued that the previous Mike Harris government did all of the heavy lifting to structurally change the education and health systems with the benefits accruing as a result of their actions in the past five years.
With all of the accomplishments that the Liberals have achieved, there are dark clouds hovering overhead. The finances of the province are poor and we have fallen behind to become a ‘have’ province. Premier Wynne stated the need for controlling spending and being fiscally responsible, however the jury is out on whether Ontario can continue on its current path. If further expenditure reductions are required, it will be in the areas of healthcare and education as they contribute the largest percentage of the province’s total expenditures. The third largest expenditure in the provincial budget is the interest on the provincial debt.
There are areas in which the Liberals have failed the voters of Ontario. Examples include the perceived buying of votes with the cancellation of the Mississauga and Oakville gas plants, the high cost and subsidization of green energy, Ornge, the labour unrest with teachers in the past 12 months and the largest tax increase in Ontario’s history after promising during an election to not raise taxes (Ontario Health Care Premium).
While the Premier will campaign like Dalton McGuinty in the next provincial election and boast about the Liberal accomplishments during the past 10 years, she may end up like Ernie Eves and be left explaining the government’s failures. Time will tell. For now, congratulations and happy anniversary.