Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne arrives at provincial legislature June 13 after her election victory.

Ontario election lessons for B.C.

Being a Liberal means something very different in Ontario than it does in B.C., based on latest election results

VICTORIA – “Liberal” is becoming one of the most ill-defined words in Canadian politics.

Here in B.C., a Liberal is a Conservative, or at least a fiscal conservative, bent on balancing budgets and battling big unions to force them to recognize today’s world of low growth and low inflation.

In Ottawa, a Liberal is currently whatever Justin Trudeau wakes up and decides. One day he’s a libertarian who wants to legalize marijuana, and the next he’s in touch with his inner Taliban, issuing a moral edict on abortion.

In Ontario, Premier Kathleen Wynne saved her gut-shot Liberal government by limping to the left of the NDP, promising to spend lots more borrowed money and build lots of transit.

This is in a have-not province with an operating deficit that is currently running north of $12 billion. For comparison purposes, B.C.’s deficit swelled briefly beyond $3 billion in the wake of the Great Recession of 2009, and the books stayed in the red until last year as the B.C. Liberals unwound the Harmonized Sales Tax and repaid a $1.6 billion HST transfer allowance to Ottawa.

You think B.C.’s energy policy is a disaster? Check out Ontario, where the cops are still investigating the $1 billion cancellation of plans to construct two natural gas-fired power plants before the 2011 election. The gas plants were to stabilize erratic output from wind and solar power, a European-style climate change gesture that involved Ontario ratepayers giving a huge subsidy to Korean tech giant Samsung.

The Ontario Liberals clung to power in part by promising a provincial pension scheme on the same scale as the Canada Pension Plan.

B.C. has a similar pension program in the works, to be offered to the two thirds of small business and self-employed people who don’t have a group plan with their employer. Ours would, of course, be voluntary.

Not so in Ontario, where large and small businesses will be required to cough up half of the required pension payments.

The Ontario model is dumb on several levels. It is to be imposed just as the baby boom retirement wave breaks across Canada’s most populous province, increasing risk that the pension pool may run dry. And it sticks small business with a new payroll tax in a province that has lost much of its traditional manufacturing base and needs to innovate.

Here’s the funny part, if you don’t live in Ontario. Wynne tabled her spending-spree, deficit-be-damned budget in an effort to convince the NDP to keep propping up the Liberal minority government and avoid an election.

Instead, she won a majority and now has to implement her pie-in-the-sky promises. Ontario is bracing for a downgrade in its credit rating based on the election result, and is about to go into province-wide bargaining with public service unions who want their share from the Liberal money tree.

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak ran on a plan that sounded similar to the one presented by Christy Clark in 2013: hold the line on spending, balance the budget, reduce the size of government, stimulate job creation. Hudak was rejected for a second time, and resigned the leadership on election night.

B.C. voters now have three years to see how the Ontario version of Liberal government plays out, compared to the B.C. Liberal version.

For us, much depends on resource development, including forest products, natural gas and other trade with Asia.

If all goes well here, B.C. can continue to send transfer payments to the fantasyland of Ontario.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

Verdict scheduled in Giesbrecht murder trial

B.C. Supreme Court justice will render his decision May 24

Gas prices spike in northern B.C. ahead of the long weekend

Fuel went up 17 cents overnight in Prince Rupert

Interior News welcomes new reporter

Trevor Hewitt joins the newspaper team

Mayor, Pinnacle Pellet COO respond to Clear Air Now concerns

Council also orders staff to draw up lease for permanent air quality monitoring station at Muheim

Everybody now, say it with me, correlation is not causation

Thom Barker takes up the cause of voluntarily vaccinating

UPDATE: Four victims identified in deadly Penticton shooting spree

John Brittain, 68, faces three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder

Prince George sweeps to first-ever BC Hockey League crown

Spruce Kings beat Vernon Vipers 3-1 in the Okanagan Wednesday for 13th straight playoff win

Hwang’s first MLS goal lifts Whitecaps to 1-0 win over LAFC

Vancouver picks up first victory of season

Child-proof your windows ahead of warm weather: B.C. expert

Fifteen children were taken to BC Children’s Hospital for falls in 2018

B.C. trucker pleads guilty to lesser charges in fatal Manitoba crash

Gurjant Singh was fined $3,000 and given a one-year driving prohibition.

Study links preschool screen time to behavioural and attention problems

The research looked at more than 2,400 families

More than $100,000 raised for family of professional skier who died near Pemberton

Dave Treadway leaves behind his pregnant wife and two young boys

BC SPCA asks public for donations after puppy caught in trap

The puppy’s medical bills are expected to amount to more than $4,600

B.C. party bus monitors required to watch for booze, drugs on board

New rule in time for grad outings, minister Claire Trevena says

Most Read