Power Play strategists debate Ontario election
Published Wednesday, September 7, 2011 5:49PM EDT
Don Martin, host of Power Play, leads a discussion of the Ontario election campaign with Erika Mozes of public affairs firm Crestview and Will Stewart, a consultant lobbyist with Navigator Ltd.
Don Martin: You know them from Power Play as the squabbling duo of Ontario politics. Erika Mozes of Crestview is a faithful Liberal and Will Stewart of Navigator leans heavily Conservative. They join us to size up the Ontario election campaign, which officially begins today.
So Erika, Dalton McGuinty fired an opening campaign shot by promising a tuition break for most post-secondary students. Smart strategy to buy the youth vote? But what happened to fiscal restraint in the name of deficit elimination?
Erika: Well Don, to begin the premier unveiled a platform of 45 targeted commitments with an annual cost of $1.5 billion in 2015-2016. The platform is fully costed, is prudent, and doesn't commit to anything that can't be implemented. The PC platform, on the other hand, has over 100 commitments, is a $4-billion spend, and by all prudent fiscal analysis had a huge $14-billion hole in it.
The most expensive commitment the premier has committed to is a 30 per cent tuition grant, which is an investment, building on Ontario's knowledge-based economy. We want to ensure future generations have jobs.
Don't get me wrong, deficit elimination is important -- that is why the Liberals plan calls for deficit elimination by 2017-2018. But deficit elimination at the cost of programs and public services is not the way forward.
Will: As we saw in 2003 and again in 2003, trusting Dalton's campaign promises is like trusting the Cookie Monster at an Oreo factory. He can't help it. It is just who he is.
I find it strange that Erika would want to speak about the ability of a political party to properly cost their promises. After all, when last in power, the Progressive Conservatives balanced the books. To say that Dalton has spent like a drunken sailor is an insult to drunken sailors everywhere. But hey, I am always up for a little discussion on finances and campaign commitments!
Let's talk about Dalton's existing $16 billion hole in his plans. I am speaking about the massive deficit that Dalton has racked up this year alone. Not to mention that he has doubled, yes doubled, the debt that he has saddled families, children, and our grandchildren with. All the premiers since confederation to 2003 could not do what Dalton did. He racked up more debt than them all! Combined!
That has not slowed him down, far from it. He has pledged MORE spending. Now he offers some parents $730 per child in college, but at the same time he has upped electricity prices by more than 50 per cent per family, which more than offsets this commitment. One family purse, one budget.
What is Dalton going to cut to balance the budget? How much spending is too much? When will it end?
Erika: Witty quips and bold face exaggerations, Will.
As the Premier said in his latest round of commercials, sometimes making the right decision -- like with the health care premium and the HST -- isn't popular. But he had the guts to do the right thing to get the Ontario economy back on track. And now, 97 per cent of the jobs that were lost before the recession have been regained.
The premier has been up front about the books -- and since Will brought it up, when the PC were last in power they left a $5.6 billion hidden deficit which is why the premier had to make the tough choice to implement the health premium in 2003. Ontarians voted for change and better public services -- they didn't want Conservative cabinet ministers making up crises in education anymore. They wanted to be able to live in an Ontario that build on success, not cherishes conflict.
So let's talk for a second what progress has been made on what Will calls the "massive deficits" (and watch what you wish for Will, because I am happy to talk about the federal Conservative government's "fiscally prudent deficit" if you like...): more hospitals, doctors and nurses, no disruptions in schools service (labour peace!), smaller class sizes, better graduation rates, and more students attending post-secondary education. I could go on, and on, however, I was told to keep it relatively brief.
The premier has a record of accomplishment in this time of global economic crisis. He has an economic plan that is verified by outside counsel. He wants to move Ontario forward, he is a known leader. Mr. Hudak's plan is based on tax cuts and working inmates.
Will: That my friends, is what folks like Erika in the communications business call a "pivot." Notice how she points the finger at Harper? Well, I have now seen it all. Dalton and Erika's communications strategy seems to be "Hey, don't look at me, look at this shiny ball over here." This is the first time I have ever seen the provincial Liberals govern themselves by agreeing with Harper! It is the equivalent of the old story from our mothers: If Harper told Dalton to jump off a bridge, would he do it?
The reader here can stop with your second paragraph which states, "As the premier said in the last round of TV commercials….." Well, if he said it on TV, it must be true. Everything on TV is true, just look at all the miracle face creams and real estate seminars pitched on TV. Next thing you know Dalton will be pitching the Slap Chop.
Let's look at Dalton's history on television ads. In 2003 Dalton says, "I won't cut your taxes, but I won't raise them either." It was on TV, so it must be true!
Wait, no it was not.
It actually led to the biggest single tax increase in Canadian history. OK, mistakes happen. After four years of government, Dalton takes to the airwaves again and promises no new taxes. This time he means it. Cue Britney Spears, whoops he did it again. Now it is 2011 and guess what Dalton has said this time? When asked if he would raise taxes, he says "no." Sure-fire guarantee that he will.
The sad part is that even with all these taxes, Dalton and his band of merry spenders is running the largest debt in Ontario's history. But the shocking part is the rate he is accumulating it. Which taxes will pay for his promises this time? Dalton has taken Ontario from the economic engine of confederation to the caboose in eight short years. Even Erika has to agree that this rate of spending is not sustainable.