By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator, Wednesday March 28, 2012
Ontario’s rough road
The budget introduced by Finance Minister Dwight Duncan on Tuesday is entirely absent new goodies of the sort that Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals spent their first eight years in office distributing; the most that can be said is that it preserves a few old favourites, such as full-day kindergarten and smaller class sizes. And it takes aim at much of what Mr. McGuinty has always held sacred, including the labour peace that has been pivotal to his political success.
Save for cancelling corporate tax cuts, it could mostly pass for a Progressive Conservative budget – which makes Tim Hudak’s flat rejection of it more than a little peculiar. Conversely, it may be too much for the provincial New Democrats to swallow, which means that the Liberals have placed their minority government in some jeopardy just months into its existence.
But if the budget passes, which remains the likeliest outcome, there’s a big caveat before declaring the province well on its way out of its deficit.
While there is no shortage of immediate cutbacks and revenue increases in Mr. Duncan’s plan – abandonments of planned infrastructure projects, cancellation of corporate tax cuts, freezes of base funding for hospitals – many of the big-ticket items will require sustained effort and focus, rather than just strokes of the pen.
Wage restraint, one of the budget’s centrepieces, fits that bill. The Liberals seem prepared to take a hard line in their current negotiations with the Ontario Medical Association. But their resolve, which includes a purported willingness to legislate salary freezes and other measures if they can’t be achieved through collective bargaining, will be tested by this year’s encounter with their erstwhile allies in the teachers’ unions – and again and again as contracts expire over the next couple of years. (Source: Globe & Mail)