By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday January 6, 2012
Austerity czar wants Ontario to spending
A government-commissioned review of Ontario’s public services is set to deliver a grim diagnosis of the province’s financial prospects, and propose a sweeping overhaul of the way it spends money.
At the heart of the new spending model would be a much tighter clampdown on health costs than Dalton McGuinty’s government has previously forecast. And among the roughly 400 recommendations for spending reforms are changes to some of the Premier’s signature education policies, including a shift away from mandated smaller classes.
The commission, headed by former bank economist Don Drummond, was appointed last spring to help find ways to accelerate the return to a balanced budget. But in an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Drummond made clear that it will be a struggle just to achieve the current target date of 2017-18, and acknowledged that implementing recommendations of the commission would require a significant degree of pain.
“If there’s a way of doing it without that, I haven’t been smart enough to find it,” Mr. Drummond said. “There’s pain in every single chapter.”
Mr. Drummond said the government has given the commission “almost shockingly” free rein, making no attempt to censor it. Nevertheless, the coming report – expected to be released within the next month – will present Mr. McGuinty’s Liberals with a major dilemma.
The Premier and his Finance Minister, Dwight Duncan, have held off on announcing any cost-cutting measures of their own, pending the commission’s findings. The report recently took on additional importance, with the threat of a credit downgrade by Moody’s Investors Services. (Source: Globe & Mail)