Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday April 29, 2022
How Doug Ford’s budget sets the tone for his Ontario PC election campaign
For a guy who came to power in 2018 on a promise to rein in the size and cost of government, Ontario Premier Doug Ford is heading into his 2022 election campaign with a completely different pitch.
That pitch can be seen in the Ontario budget tabled Thursday by Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy, a budget that he described as “Premier Ford’s vision.”
That “vision” is in reality less a provincial budget than it is a Progressive Conservative election platform. In case there’s any doubt, Bethlenfalvy recited the PC campaign slogan “Get it done” no less than 10 times during his budget speech.
Also, minutes after the speech wrapped, the legislature was adjourned until well after the June 2 election, so the budget won’t pass unless the PCs win a majority.
Beyond the sloganeering, the budget’s tone and messaging appear crafted to assure Ontario voters that Ford and the PCs are not just willing to spend the money that’s needed on crucial government services, but actually eager to spend it, to the extent of actually forecasting a deficit higher than in each of the past two pandemic years.
It also appears to be an attempt to persuade voters that Ford has been changed by the COVID-19 pandemic and that cutting government spending is no longer a big concern for the PCs.
In 2018, the dominant theme of Ford’s campaign was that the government simply spent too much. A few Fordisms from then:
•”The party with the taxpayer’s money is over.”
•”People are sick and tired of tax tax tax, spend spend spend.”
•”We’re going to put money back into the taxpayer’s pocket instead of the government’s pocket.”
Ford’s dominant theme for 2022 appears to be that government spending is just what Ontario needs.
“Over the next three years, our plan will see spending increase by an average of five per cent per year, with important investments in health care, in education and critical infrastructure,” Bethlenfalvy proclaimed in his speech.
During a news conference at Queen’s Park on Thursday, I asked the finance minister about this contrast, and whether his party was wrong to campaign so hard in 2018 on the idea that government was spending too much.
“Clearly, the pandemic has exposed some of the lack of investment by — I’m going to be very blunt — by the Liberals, supported by the NDP,” said Bethlenfalvy.
“We’re being, I think, very prudent to invest in health care and education and critical infrastructure,” Bethlenfalvy continued. “That’s what the people of Ontario want.”
It’s one thing the main parties will all agree on, that the people of Ontario want investments in health care and education and long-term care and transit. Polling has told them that.
Now the parties need to persuade Ontario voters that they’re the best one to deliver.
The NDP and Liberals will try to sow seeds of doubt that the PCs will truly spend what’s needed. (CBC)