Ontario on hold

The recently-announced pending departure of Premier Dalton McGuinty drew no tears in our house.

It drew no cheers either, despite our long held belief that McGuinty has been a disaster for Ontario. Time will tell just how true that statement rings, but we suspect whoever takes over will have an uphill battle recovering from the policies and directions introduced under McGuinty’s watch.

As we have suggested here before, McGuinty is a genuinely good guy and solid family man. At a recent gathering at Queen’s Park he was an exceptional host; kind and welcoming despite his heavy workload, keenly interested in what junior citizens had to say and he left a good impression. Perhaps that explains his success in public life – he’s not hard to like. But, there was a flip-side.

In 2000, we saw the other side. While attending the International Plowing Match just outside Elora, we noted this McGuinty guy, telling his entourage what shots and vantage points he wanted for his image that day. It perhaps was our first introduction to what really goes on behind the scenes with political parties and their leaders. Rather than let serendipity take its course, ambitious politicians are very willing to make their own fate, at whatever cost.

Of course, following on the heels of Ernie Eves and Mike Harris before that, all McGuinty had to do to win that first election was to not be them. It seems obvious that much of the last decade has also been a scripted affair, less about the straight goods than it was how those goods looked to the public.

He got away with a lot, but in recent weeks the debacles facing him were not getting smoothed over quickly enough to hold on.

Under McGuinty, Ontario has endured years of inflating budgets, escalating payrolls for the public sector, increasing red tape for business, expanded Ministry of Labour activities, dramatic increases to the minimum wage, Greenbelt legislation that chose winners and losers in property development, higher electricity costs and renewable energy policies that make little sense. Ontario also faces whopping debt levels.

Tack onto those policy choices – abominations like e-health cost over-runs, the ORNGE helicopter scandal, tinkering with the OLG horse-racing program, denying municipalities the chance to accept or reject wind turbines, and the political opportunism exhibited by the cancellation of a gas-powered generation plant in a vote-rich urban centre – and you have a government out of control.

After giving away much of the gains made in cost control under his predecessor, we are back to a point where cuts are needed to balance the books. The other option is increasing taxes.

The McGuinty government, as we opined last summer, used government resources for its own promotional ends, as press releases were fired off using that nomenclature. We warned at that time a price would be paid and in most commentaries since his pending departure, the responsibility for Ontario’s state of affairs sit squarely on his shoulders.

Further to that, we have to admit to some disgust with this whole pending departure thing and the proroguing of the legislature. The act of proroguing is not new, as most governments have used it effectively as a time-out while the government gathers its wits.

What is new here, and questionable, is offering up a resignation and still running the show for an indeterminate amount of time. We can think of no other instance where an employee, let alone an executive would be left to fumble in the darkness with no oversight, after having resigned.

Most are walked to the door. If it’s over for McGuinty, it should be entirely over and an interim leader appointed.

In the meantime Ontario is on hold – an action our province can ill afford.