How Doug Ford’s budget has hurt Trudeau and helped Scheer
The sound coming out of Conservative backrooms on Parliament Hill in the hours following the presentation of this week’s Ontario budget was that of a collective sigh of relief.
From Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer’s perspective, his party dodged a pre-election bullet on Thursday.
By all indications, Premier Doug Ford’s fiscal plan will provide the Trudeau Liberals with less lethal ammunition to use against their Conservative rivals in the upcoming federal campaign than they had hoped for.
Yes, the fact that Ontario will remain in the red beyond Ford’s current term in office is liable to blunt Conservative Party of Canada attacks on the ruling Liberals for accumulating deficit upon deficit since they have taken power.
But it will also make it more difficult for Trudeau to turn the tables on Scheer and predict that the election of a Conservative government would result in a fiscal bloodbath.
And yes, the course charted in Thursday’s budget will — over time — impoverish Ontario’s social services. The plan to keep the growth in program spending below the rate of inflation for the next five years cannot but result in a thinner social safety net. The province’s most vulnerable constituencies stand to be the first and the hardest hit.
But the full impact on most Ontarians of the measures sketched out on Thursday will not have been felt by the time Scheer and his Conservatives go door-knocking next fall.
In the immediate, the first batch of post-budget media analysis has left federal Conservative strategists with an embarrassment of riches to counter the Liberals’ post-budget apocalyptic scenarios.
Take this summation by my columnist colleague Martin Regg Cohn: “There are no savage cuts in the first Ford-Fedeli budget, which could easily have been delivered by former premier Dalton McGuinty back when he belatedly discovered austerity.”
Or this one from Globe and Mail columnist Tim Kiladze: “If anything, it looks more like something that would come from the Liberals he replaced — the ones he swore had been reckless with the province’s finances.”
Those comments were not written to complement the Ford Tories but to highlight the gap between their rhetoric and their actual budget. (Source: Chantal Hebert, Toronto Star)