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Hudak Calls Liberal Budget a Work of Fiction

20110329hudak.jpg
Tim Hudak commenting on the provincial budget. Photo by Nick Kozak/Torontoist.


While the federal campaign is officially underway across the country, in one large, windowless room in the MacDonald Block just off Queen’s Park, the upcoming provincial election got a sort of unofficial kick-start of its own. Tim Hudak took to the podium in front of a room full of reporters to respond to Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan‘s presentation of Ontario’s budget, and spent much of his airtime calling the integrity of the Liberals’ math and their proposals into question. “If this budget was sold at your local Chapters, you’d have to find it in the fiction section,” he began, and his skepticism only grew from there.


Duncan and Hudak were both clearly in election mode, speaking in broad strokes and broader platitudes that were soundbite-ready. Unlike some other members of his caucus, Hudak did not pick up on Rob Ford’s language—not one “respect for taxpayers” slipped out during his half hour at the mic. But the message was the same: “root out the waste” was his version of the gravy refrain, and it was the subject he returned to most often when asked how a Conservative government would balance the books.
To curb spending, Hudak said the Tories would start by scrapping the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) and the Ontario Power Authority, which he pegged at “about five hundred million dollars in waste to date” (that figure accumulated over several years). His next move would be to conduct a sunset review of all agencies, boards, and commissions to find and eliminate “the fat.” Hudak seemed confident this would bring in substantial savings, though he did not attach any kind of estimate in his remarks. After that? Opening up the Arbitration Act, and reviewing the province’s public service, to “make sure that public pay and benefits reflect Ontario families’ ability to pay.”
The deficit currently sits at $16.7 billion. Given that the Tories have ruled out tax increases, as well as Hudak’s expressed interest in some form of tax cut (by abolishing the HST on certain basic items, or reducing the overall rate of the HST, or through income tax reductions), the implicit message was that these public sector reviews and reductions were going to need to do a lot of the heavy lifting in a Conservative plan to balance the budget. “An Ontario PC government will put families first,” Hudak said, and what families need is a break on their tax bills. Hudak consistently demurred when he was asked to specify what service cuts he’d be willing to consider but made it clear that he thought spending was very far out of control.
Though Duncan’s budget trumpets the economic recovery and rebounding employment—it highlights that, according to Statistics Canada, 91% of the total jobs lost during the recession have been recovered, and 84% of full-time jobs lost over that period have been recovered—Hudak was dismissive. “I don’t think anyone believes these job numbers that Dalton McGuinty is selling,” he responded. He predicted a major tax hike if the Liberals were returned to office in the fall, and summarized their past eight years in office by saying: “There are only two things guaranteed from the McGuinty Government. One: they will increase spending. And two: they will raise your taxes to pay for it.”
“I don’t think it’s worth the paper it’s printed on,” Hudak concluded. His challenge will be whether he can convince voters of that come October.
The full text of Ontario’s 2011 budget is available from the Ministry of Finance’s website.

Comments

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    So, basically more of the same from the Right: vague promises of heaps of money waiting to be discovered to pay for everything.

  • http://twitter.com/brianyyz Brian B

    Anyone remember the Red Tape Commission from back in the day? More of the same, more of the same.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R

  • http://paul.kishimoto.name Paul Kishimoto

    This conviction that government is wasteful often rests on a fictive corollary that private business is necessarily efficient.

    But consider business and government:
    —Which is required by law to make its core operating information public?
    —Which is subject to more scrutiny from its shareholders/electors?
    —Which measures efficiency via profit only, and which must consider non-monetary benefits?

    …these would all tend to indicate that government should be more efficient than business.

    Also, success in business is marked by steady growth. For those who want to “run government like a business”, shouldn't growth also be a goal? Instead, we see the opposite.

  • CountZeroInterrupt

    You heard the man! The wasteful spending is out of control! It's excessive! The PCs just don't exactly know where it is or how much there is of it. But never mind the details, just vote for them and i'm sure everything will be fine…

  • Drain_Man

    And who exactly are these “families” that he keeps trotting out in every speech? Is it some mythical couple with 2.4 children, a golden retriever, two minivans, a white picket fence, a Tim Hortons cup on the dash and a case of Canadian in the fridge? I guess if you're a student, married without children, single or cohabitating but not married, a senior couple or an elderly widow you need not bother listening since Hudak doesn't seem to care about anyone else but his “families”. And don't forget, government workers have “ordinary Ontario families” too.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    The money is probably hiding under Saddam's nuclear missile cache.

  • Drain_Man

    And who exactly are these “families” that he keeps trotting out in every speech? Is it some mythical couple with 2.4 children, a golden retriever, two minivans, a white picket fence, a Tim Hortons cup on the dash and a case of Canadian in the fridge? I guess if you're a student, married without children, single or cohabitating but not married, a senior couple or an elderly widow you need not bother listening since Hudak doesn't seem to care about anyone else but his “families”. And don't forget, government workers have “ordinary Ontario families” too.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    The money is probably hiding under Saddam's nuclear missile cache.