During this tax and budget time, let's consider two "tectonic realities" about governments and numbers -- helpful to think about, given that there is plenty of "underground" action. It explains why governments often get themselves (and taxpayers) into trouble later.
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Bob Rae and Kathleen Wynne are hardly the only (former and current) politicians to engage in storytelling. Politicians of every partisan stripe do the same thing. But while stories are useful and guide us in a variety of beneficial ways, the rational side of human nature should revisit tales now and then, especially political ones. That leads to better, smarter government. Ontario is no exception.
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One issue that has been largely absent from the campaign is the province's high levels of government debt. This omission is curious given that the Quebec government's debt is the largest in the country when presented as a share of the economy and is now consuming a significant share of tax dollars in the form of interest payments. If Quebec voters are concerned about their government's level of indebtedness, they should insist that the political parties set out clear plans to get it under control. The problem can no longer be ignored.
Another year has come and gone and Ontario's weak public finances remain largely unchanged. The provincial government did little to improve its fiscal position in 2013 and recently signalled it intends to continue with debt-financed spending into the New Year. But the status quo isn't serving Ontarians well. For 2014, the government should chart a new course that places provincial finances on a more sound footing. That would be a much-needed New Year's resolution for Canada's largest province.
With the holiday season now behind us, the oncoming flood of credit statements to Canadian households is a powerful reminder that there are no free lunches. Borrowing to pay for current consumption brings interest payments, and ultimately, the need to pay off principal balances. But this same reality also applies to governments.