The clock is ticking on Ontario Premier Doug Ford. He promised Ontarians “the party is over with taxpayers’ money.” Now he needs to keep his promise to get spending under control before time runs out and the next election starts.
While some may try to argue that Ford has not had a chance to fix the province’s financial problems due to the pandemic, the Progressive Conservative government increased spending by $5 billion during its first year in office.
Ford outspent former premier Kathleen Wynne before COVID-19 ever hit our shores.
When Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy presents the government’s fall economic update later this week, it will be the Ford government’s second to last chance before the next election to show Ontarians that the Progressive Conservatives can keep their promises.
How can Ford prove to Ontarians that he really can stand up for taxpayers?
There are at least four key moves the Premier and his government can make.
First, restrain spending.
The pandemic showed that our health-care system needs some improvements. But that doesn’t excuse the soaring government spending Ontarians have seen in nearly every other area of government.
Any increased spending, other than in health and long-term care, should be temporary and pandemic related. If the Ford government reduces spending to pre-pandemic levels in ministries other than health and long-term care, taxpayers could save $15.2 billion.
That would go a long way in eliminating the province’s $33.1 billion deficit.
Second, Ford needs to cut taxes to keep his election promises.
Ford promised to lower the second income tax bracket by 20 per cent. That could save an Ontario taxpayer up to $827 a year. For hardworking Ontarians trying to make ends meet amid rising costs of living, that money could go a long way.
That one tax-cutting promise would cover over a month’s worth of groceries for a family of four, even at today’s inflated food prices.
Ford also promised to cut Ontario’s gas excise tax from 14.7 cents per litre down to 9 cents per litre. For a family filling up their minivan once a week, that would save over $200 per year.
Third, the premier needs to end corporate welfare, once and for all.
Ford spoke against corporate welfare during the 2018 election campaign, but his government handed over nearly $300 million to the Ford Motor Company for factory renovations, even though Ford is a wealthy company on the Fortune 500 list.
Ford also handed out $55 million to the profitable Maple Leaf Foods.
Ontarians don’t want to see their hard-earned taxpayer dollars handed over to rich corporations.
Finally, we need end political welfare.
Ford told Ontarians that giving $12 million a year of taxpayer money to political parties with no strings attached was wrong.
“I do not believe the government should be taking money from hard-working taxpayers and giving it to political parties,” said Ford just three short years ago.
But rather than scrapping the program, Ford has put it on steroids. He’s made the program more costly and even arranged for Ontario’s four major political parties to take a $10-million payday loan courtesy of Ontario taxpayers just weeks before the next election.
Ford still has time to redeem himself.
By pursuing these four policy avenues, Ford can show that he still intends to fight for everyday Ontarians.
With only months left before the next election, it’s time for Ford to get cracking.
Jay Goldberg is the Interim Ontario Director at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation