Budget questions blowin' in the wind
Finance Minister Charles Sousa tables the 2015 Ontario Budget at Queen's Park on Thursday, April 23, 2015. (ERNEST DOROSZUK/Toronto Sun)
“The answer, my friend
Is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer is blowin’ in wind.” - Dylan.
Thursday’s budget was all about Dylan*.
That’s Dylan with an asterisk.
It might as well have been Dylan the ‘60s folk icon, because the answers to most of the big questions about this budget are blowin’ in the wind.
The 372-page document was packed with bafflegab and silly charts and enough double-speak to make George Orwell blush.
Once upon a time, budgets were financial documents with informative pie charts that parsed the province’s finances with actuarial care.
These days, they’re so much government propaganda with contorted sentences offering up meaningless pablum about “unlocking assets,” alongside childish pictograms intent on showing us what a cheery place we’re living in.
The Dylan-with-an-asterisk diagram purports to show “Support for Dylan* from Early Years to Adulthood,” with little pictures of the fictional Dylan moving through full-day kindergarten to post secondary education.
What it doesn’t mention is that Dylan was born with a $21,000 debt — thanks largely to this government’s wild overspending and lack of fiscal control.
The asterisk explanation at the bottom of the page tells us Dylan is “used as an example.”
Like we couldn’t figure it out.
It was all vaguely reminiscent of an Ernie Eves budget when he introduced two little girls who donated the contents of their piggy bank to bring down the deficit.
I have no idea where those little girls are now, but I am sure they deeply regret that move. Had they invested that money over time, they could probably afford a condo in the Cayman Islands or some other off-shore tax haven, where they could successfully shelter those hard earned dollars from a profligate government that smashed that piggy bank and poured their hard-earned savings down drain.
On the heels of the sale of the giant Hydro One utility, the big question is what gets sold next?
What will the government sell off to balance the books next year?
“We want to maximize the returns of these Crown corporations,” Finance Minister Charles Sousa told reporters Thursday.
So if you sell off Hydro One for $9 billion, pay off its $5 billion portion of the electricity sector debt, you’re left with $4 billion.
Is that a good deal for a corporation that has a $1 billion a year revenue?
And if you sell Hydro One this year to build infrastructure, what are you going to sell next year and the year after in order to pay the operating costs?
But the bigger question is what’s missing in this budget?
Where’s the plan to control public sector salaries? Treasury board president Deb Matthews said this week she’s looking at a “net zero” cost to pay settlements.
Where’s the pictogram of thousands of nurses, teachers and cops storming Queen’s Park when they figure out the government has allocated zero, nada, zilch to increase their pay?
There’s no money for pay hikes in this budget.
“The layoffs are coming massively, particularly in healthcare and education,” warned PC interim leader Jim Wilson.
So what will they sell off next?
The province insists the cash from Hydro One will pay for new infrastructure. Except PC finance critic Vic Fedeli points out there’s actually no new money this year over last year. The $4 billion Hydro One cash will simply be gobbled up by other programs.
And there are unanswered questions about the new Ontario Pension Plan. The details are still sketchy, but basically anyone who doesn’t have a defined benefit pension will have to join. And their employers will have to cough up 1.9% of salary per employee towards it.
And who will manage that money? I’ll bet a line of Liberal toadies are lining up to line their pockets.
And where will 1.9% that come from? Lower wages and layoffs is my guess.
Again, no answers in the budget.
Just like the other Dylan — the one without the asterisk — said, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.