Somewhere at Queen’s Park, an old clock ticks as the Don Drummond report begins to gather dust on a shelf.
And with the passing of each hour, Ontario’s debt grows by $1.8 million. Every hour, 24 hours a day, the clock is ticking and the debt is growing. Released with such drama and intense media interest just a month ago, the Drummond report has all but fallen off the agenda, with the Dalton McGuinty Liberals disavowing many of its key recommendations to save money.
Yet they continue to pretend that they can lead Ontario to a balanced budget in the foreseeable future.
Drummond’s overall baseline projections are quite simple. Hold the line on health spending to an increase of 2.5 per cent per year, contain education spending to an increase of 1% year, hold post-secondary education to a 1.5% annual increase and social services at 0.5%.
Savings would be sought in all other programs of 2.4 % each year. That, said Drummond, gets us to a balanced budget in 2018.
But with each recommendation the Liberals ignore, the goal of achieving a balanced provincial budget in this decade becomes more elusive and unlikely. For the past eight years, the government repeatedly ignored our warnings and demonstrated no interest in getting its overall spending under control. This is Dalton McGuinty’s mess and he must assume responsibility for it.
The old clock continues to tick, ominously.
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On March 8, the Ontario legislature debated a motion introduced by Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson, calling on the McGuinty government to place a moratorium on further industrial wind energy development until independent health and environmental studies have been completed.
Consistent with the public position I took almost two years ago, I was glad to have the opportunity to speak in support of the idea, and vote for the motion.
Unfortunately, the Liberal and NDP MPPs combined to defeat the motion 45-28. There is no disputing that the McGuinty Liberals continue to ignore the voice of rural and small town Ontario on this issue.
Through the Green Energy Act, the Liberals stole away the right of local communities to have a meaningful say in whether or not wind farms would permitted. And their unwillingness to acknowledge the legitimate concerns about health impacts and appropriate set-backs is troubling, to say the least.
But we continue to push back. Last week, Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak introduced the Affordable Energy and Restoration of Local Decision Making Act, a private member’s bill.
If passed into law, the bill would cancel the FIT and microFIT programs, and restore the local decision-making power of municipalities to approve or disallow large-scale wind and solar projects. It would also require the minister of energy to consult with municipalities on existing large scale FIT contracts, to determine whether or not they should proceed.
Hudak’s bill is scheduled for second Reading debate on March 22.
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Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott welcomes comments. He can be reached at 1-800-265-2366. His website address is www.tedarnottmpp.com.