ontario news watch

After fifteen years of governments pursuing high spending, run-away deficits, and no meaningful tax relief, it’s time for Ontario Premier Doug Ford to think big.

Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy is set to present the Ford government’s pre-election budget next month, which gives his team a chance to set the spending tone as the province heads to a vote.

In the Wynne government’s final budget before facing voters in 2018, former finance minister Charles Sousa rolled out $20 billion in deficit-financed promises to try to win over the support of the province’s voters.

Ford rightly called out the lack of wisdom in Wynne’s big spending financial decisions. Voters handed Ford a strong majority mandate and sent the Wynne Liberals packing.

That was strong signal that people wanted change.

Wynne was not the first political leader to try to buy-off voters by using their own money. Conventional wisdom suggests that governments can improve their chances heading into an election by dangling expensive goodies to win the public’s favour.

That’s what former premier Wynne did in 2018. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did exactly the same thing last year.

But if Ford and Bethlenfalvy are tempted to embark on a spending spree this spring, they should think twice.

Voters elected the current Ontario government because Ford promised to protect taxpayers and bring sanity back to Queen’s Park after well over a decade of financial mismanagement.

And Ford should take decisive action before June’s election.

It’s time for the Ford government to stay true to the pro-taxpayer message that got his team elected in the first place.

After four years of delays, it’s time for Ford to finally deliver on his promised tax cuts.

During the last election, Ford promised voters that he would cut middle class income taxes, lower the gas tax, and provide corporate tax relief.

So far, he’s zero for three and the clock is ticking down.

Ford’s promised income tax cut could save a two-income household up to $1,700 per year. That could help Ontarians desperately trying to pay down their credit card bills after years of pandemic disruptions.

Ford’s promised gas tax cut could save a family filling-up a minivan and a sedan once a week $390 per year. At a time when millions of Ontarians are nearing a financial breaking point, $390 in savings could help cover the cost of groceries for a family of four for about two weeks.

Ford also pledged to cut taxes for Ontario businesses. He said a corporate tax cut would bring jobs back to the province and make Ontario a more attractive place in which to invest.

Two years into the pandemic, businesses need tax relief and reduced red tape now more than ever before.

Media reports have also suggested that Ford is considering ending license plate sticker fees for Ontario drivers. For a family with two cars, that could save $240 every year. With inflation rising rapidly and cost-of-living soaring, families could use the extra cash.

Best of all, this tax relief can be delivered without deepening the deficit.

The government should return non-health sector spending back to pre-pandemic levels. Doing so would save over $10 billion per year, which would more than compensate for any revenue lost by leaving more cash in taxpayers’ wallets.

It’s time for Ford to remember why he was elected in the first place. Voters wanted to end the Liberal spending spree, enjoy tax relief, and bring sanity back the province’s finances. So far, Ford has failed on all fronts, even discounting the impact of the pandemic.

In the government’s March budget, Ford should put all of his chips on the table and bet on tax relief.

Jay Goldberg is the Ontario Director at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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If your wallet is feeling lighter, it’s not just because of the rising cost of living and inflation.

Ontario’s political parties have teamed-up to take $14 million out of taxpayers’ pockets this year, and they’re just getting started.

Back in 2014, former premier Kathleen Wynne introduced the per-vote subsidy. Under Wynne’s plan, political parties would get a set amount of money from taxpayers every three months, to be spent on whatever the parties want, including lawn signs and attack ads.

Thanks to Wynne’s program, Ontario’s political parties have taken nearly $100 million out of taxpayers’ wallets in the past seven years.

But Wynne isn’t the only politician who deserves some coal in the stocking.

When he was running to replace Wynne three years ago, Ontario Premier Doug Ford promised to scrap Wynne’s political welfare handouts.

Promise made, promise broken.

Ford has been in office for more than three and a half years, and Ontario’s political welfare program is alive and well.

In fact, political welfare is thriving like never before.

In February, Attorney General Doug Downey announced the Ford government planned to keep Wynne’s political welfare system in place. He also announced that the amount of money Ontario’s political parties receive under the program would increase to historic new highs.

That means not only did the Ford government fail to repeal political welfare, as promised, but it’s also made it even more costly.

When Downey announced this policy reversal, he blamed the pandemic, claiming that the economic climate meant Ontario’s political parties couldn’t fundraise as much as they would have liked to.

All three of the opposition parties at Queen’s Park have chosen to go along with the Ford government’s plan to suck money out of taxpayers.

Ford’s team also quietly introduced a new gravy train for Ontario’s political parties ahead of the 2022 election. The four parties are set to receive $10 million in taxpayer loans for them to spend during the 2022 campaign.

Taxpayers will literally be loaning money to political parties for the privilege of being forced to watch the kind of TV attack ads that make us want to throw our televisions out the window.

But new evidence posted on Elections Ontario’s website shows that the Ford government’s decision to blame the pandemic for breaking its election promise is just hot air. The government’s own legislation keeps the system in place until at least the end of 2024.

If the government wants to blame the pandemic, it certainly can’t use that excuse to justify a three-year extension of the program.

The fact that Ontario’s political parties are crying poor is also a load of hogwash. Last year, in the thick of the pandemic, Ford’s Progressive Conservatives raised $3.4 million. The Liberals and the NDP raised millions as well.

Do those numbers suggest that political parties really need our help?

There are literally thousands of things hard-earned taxpayer dollars could be better spent on.

The average Ontarian is set to pay $1,850 in provincial sales taxes this year. With the $14 million going into Ontario’s political parties’ pockets, over 7,500 Ontarians could have had a sales tax holiday for the entire year.

Does that sound like our politicians have their priorities straight?

Ontario’s politicians are using the pandemic as a weak excuse to justify raiding the treasury.

Taxpayers can’t let them get away with it.

Ontario’s politicians need to be held accountable.

Ford was right when he said that taxpayers shouldn’t have to see their hard-earned tax dollars pad the pockets of political parties.

Before the next election, taxpayers want to see the old Doug Ford make a return to Queen’s Park and finally take political parties’ hands out of the taxpayer cookie jar.

Jay Goldberg is the Ontario Director at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.