Falsehoods and promises

An election is set for June 7 and the promises are coming fast and furious.

The News this week brought to mind an unsuccessful run for student council almost four decades ago. Anyone interested in running got a little coaching and the one tip that still rings a bell is how inappropriate it would be promising lemonade in the school water fountains. It wasn’t possible, nor in the interest of students. They would like it, but it wasn’t good for them.

To paraphrase, never promise what you can’t deliver.

As a sidebar, my platform proposed getting rid of bullying and developing some common goals. It didn’t fly with students and even had some teachers mystified at what I was getting at. It would be a winning platform today I am sure. Truth be told, a good number of those teachers and their antics wouldn’t pass muster today, but I digress.

The campaign for Ontario votes is well underway. The Tories have a new leader and the other incumbent leaders are busy peddling what they can to their constituency. But I believe few of them had the crash course I had in public school: never promise what you can’t deliver.

Voters will be reminded at a later date about campaign periods being about the best of intentions and highest of hopes for programs, not necessarily fulfilling said promises. It’s been heard before and will be heard again.

Perhaps it is having attended school so long ago, that I struggle with the new math. One plus one always came out to two, and two plus two equaled four, but in today’s math, simple dollars and cents appear to be an inconvenient truth best ignored.

When the Liberals first talked about a pharma-care type arrangement offering free prescriptions for people under 25 there was a bit of cheering. In realistic terms, the burden on taxpayers is somewhat limited because most people under that age are quite healthy and won’t need many prescriptions filled. Those that do, could have a serious health issue and most people wouldn’t begrudge helping families hit with high-cost prescriptions. Proposed expansions to these programs could easily become cost prohibitive, although a welcome relief for families without benefits through work.

The NDP is talking early in the game about free dental for all. Again, great idea and certainly there is merit in preventative dentistry, but at what cost? Will companies or public sector programs drop coverage and use the provincial plan?

These are all questions that have to enter the debate, but without great effort and an unravelling of current finances and obligations, voters can’t be expected to make an informed choice.

The Greens, not exactly a government in waiting, have some interesting ideas in their platform that are worth considering. But again, without a true handle on the current fiscal situation of Ontario, it’s hard to make promises.

The Conservatives have a new leader after weeks of silliness. It would appear, despite the efforts of some in the media to bash the new guy, they have a very good chance of forming the next government.

Regardless of which new party wins the election, my personal fear is they will find themselves in the same pickle Mike Harris did when he took power.

The cupboards were virtually bare and by any metrics published about Ontario’s principal debt – let alone its recurring deficit method of financing – Ontario is now perhaps in worse shape than back then.

Thanks to goofy accounting rules, only Liberal insiders have a clue about Ontario’s current state of affairs. The contenders have to make best guesses as they square off the costs of new policy options.

It’s the new math I’m afraid. For many of us who try to manage our personal affairs wisely, this math doesn’t add up.