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Why I Didn't Weigh In on the Budget

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On April 23, Ontarians were handed a patchwork budget deal between the Liberals and NDP, which actually increases government spending in the face of a looming $30 billion deficit. This is called "digging a deeper hole."

But being an optimist, I prefer to look at the budget deal as just another short-term setback under the Ontario Liberals. Our province can still have a bright future. But to get there, we need some straight talk about the situation we're in at present.

So here's the truth: We've got big problems. The money's run out. It's been a long time coming under this government. But it was made worse when the Liberals chose the wrong path after last October's election when faced with two directions. The first path called for urgent action to reduce the bloated size and cost of government and build a dynamic, thriving and growing private sector to create jobs. This is the route I called for.

The other path maintains the status quo. It celebrates mediocrity and accepts anemic growth and chronic unemployment as a given. Worse than having no jobs plan, this budget actually throws up barriers to job creation by increasing taxes on entrepreneurs. This weak response to our jobs, spending and debt crisis means the government remains on course toward tripling our accumulated debt. Yet this is the path the Premier chose.

The way I see it, by contrast, Ontario has all kinds of advantages to build on to take us in a new direction. A skilled, motivated workforce. Lots of people who think, invent, create, grow, mine, forge and build products and services in demand around the world. Bountiful natural resources. And a prime location in the heart of the North American marketplace.

We're missing just one key ingredient -- real leadership on jobs and our economy.

We need a different path, and a new team with new ideas. Yes, we need to reduce the size and cost of government. But you can't "cut" your way to prosperity. We need to grow our private sector to create jobs too.

We need to plan for the unexpected as well, like a sudden spike in interest rates. Today these are at record lows and have nowhere to go but up. A mere one per cent increase in borrowing costs would result in an additional $500 million needed to service our debt. This would wipe out fully one quarter of the savings targets contained in the budget. It could pay for a quarter of a million MRI exams, as just one example. But under this budget, it would go to line the pockets of overseas lenders instead.

And these are just a few examples of a government that just doesn't get the seriousness of the situation. But Ontarians do. We've been down before. But with new ideas and the commitment to make them work, we can come roaring back again.

Until then, if you're still wondering why I didn't wade into the post-budget soap opera, I hope this gives you your answer. There are enough people digging Ontario into a hole. I wasn't about to contribute another shovel.

Put a different way, no amount of tinkering would have fixed this budget. Our position will continue to worsen under a Premier who refuses to take accountability for the problems he himself has created over the last nine years. We cannot afford to sit and debate small change, when what we need is big change.

We need a government that understands the key sequence: that getting your fiscal house in order leads to balanced budgets and lower taxes, which in turn leads to prosperity and an ability to afford the things people really care about -- like dependable health care and excellence in education.

Above all, we need a government that understands the link between debt reduction and job creation. Businesses know that heavily-indebted jurisdictions can't afford the things that make them attractive places for relocation, or expansion. Things like competitive taxes and good infrastructure.

It's called "getting the fundamentals right." And it's a plan of action that I'm committed to delivering for the people of Ontario.