By Chris Vander Doelen, The Windsor Star
…But we should have known we were in deep trouble the minute Duncan quoted famous enviro-fantacist Al Gore.
In February, international mining giant Xtrata announced it will move its copper smelting operations from Timmins, Ont., to Quebec to cut its $70 million annual hydro bill in half.
At least 670 CAW workers will lose their refinery jobs. But they probably would have been out of work anyway, once all those wind and solar farms subsidized by the Ontario government send the province’s energy prices through the roof.
So in his budget Thursday, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan announced the cure: The McGuinty government will spend $150 million per year subsidizing electricity rates for “large northern industrial facilities.”
The new power rebates will “help protect and create jobs.” See? All better now. Just don’t bet on Timmins getting its smelting jobs back.
Duncan’s entire budget seemed like that: One little pink Band-Aid after another slapped on the gaping wounds inflicted on the province’s economy by the Liberals over the past six years.
For instance, when the HST kicks in, every Ontario resident will be paying eight per cent more in sales taxes to buy gas to get to work and for fuel to heat their homes.
But we’re supposed to feel good about it because this budget creates a Northern Ontario Energy Credit of $200 per northern family, to help with their higher heating costs.
There was no breakdown on how many new bureaucrats Ontario will hire to confiscate and transfer the $200 from one freezing Ontario family in the south to one in the north — which is probably burning firewood anyway. So the energy credit is really just a chainsaw subsidy.
They’re cutting corporate income taxes — the same taxes they once raised, chasing many employers out of Ontario.
They’re cutting the small business surtax to stimulate job growth — the same surtax they introduced over howls of protest that it would surely kill job growth.
They say they’re cutting income taxes. But you can bet the cuts won’t come close to matching the huge health tax levies the Liberals introduced in their first term.
In each case, these cuts look like one small step forward to correct two giant, job-killing steps back already taken.
Worst of all, Ontario’s once gilt-edged economy will continue to bleed to death with massive deficits that stretch off into the future, adding $74.2 billion to its debt by 2013.
The McGuinty Liberals congratulated themselves heartily at how “balanced and responsible” this black pit of debt is. But it’s more debt than the federal government intends to run up carrying the entire country.
Every working Ontarian will pay for the rest of their lives for the debts run up by the Duncan budget. And there is a good chance our grandchildren will help pay for it, too. Some legacy.
The people who won’t be suffering, Duncan was at pains to assure them, are provincial employees whose wages and benefits make up 55 per cent of provincial spending.
Most of us who toil in the private sector didn’t get much of a raise this year, if we’re still working. But those employed “in our schools and hospitals” will be “protected,” Duncan said over, and over, and over — just in case anyone missed whose government this is.
Program spending in Ontario will still rise by 6.5 per cent in the middle of the worst recession in most lifetimes. Responsible? Balanced? That’s outrageous in my books.
But we should have known we were in deep trouble the minute Duncan quoted famous enviro-fantacist Al Gore.
In other bad budget news, CUPE immediately started crowing that Windsor can shelve its plan to close its overpriced, money-losing daycare operations. The Liberals say they will continue to fund a cancelled federal day-care benefit for another 12 months.
“It’s only for one year,” Mayor Eddie Francis warns of the extended provincial daycare funding. And there’s still no reason for taxpayers to pay CUPE twice as much for daycare as the non-profits charge, Francis says. That doesn’t change.
One potential savings for property taxpayers, Francis says, was buried in a line freezing the wages of public employees whose contracts expire over the next two years.
That will mean savings if it applies to Ontario Provincial Police, whose contracts typically set the pattern for every police department in Ontario.
If the OPP are frozen, that should mean the wages of city cops should also be frozen — and they make up the largest single budget item for most municipalities.
That should mean freezes all around, if Duncan meant what he said. “It will be very interesting to see what happens,” Francis says. Indeed.