Kathleen Wynne has the potential to be a Bill Davis
TheStar.com – Opinion/Commentary – Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne has the potential to be a great premier, in the mould of a Bill Davis.
Jun 08 2014. By: Haroon Siddiqui, Columnist
Tim Hudak tells the truth when he says “sometimes, the truth isn’t easy.” The truth is that his million jobs plan — axe 100,000 public sector jobs, create one million private sector jobs — does not add up. There were fundamental questions about it even before several respected economists punched holes in it.
His first premise is that about a tenth of the 1.3 million public sector workers are not needed. They’re doing little or nothing, such as the Hydro employees who “spend the entire day thinking up how to drive up your bills.” It follows that the private sector won’t be rushing to fill those jobs.
His second proposition — that a shrunken public sector leads to a bigger private sector — is tied to his idea of reducing corporate taxes by a third. But doing so has not been shown to create jobs.
Governments have been slashing taxes for years. Dalton McGuinty made Ontario one of the lowest corporate tax jurisdictions. Yet Statistics Canada reported that by 2012 non-financial corporations were hoarding $526 billion. That prompted both Mark Carney, then governor of the Bank of Canada, and Jim Flaherty, then finance minister, to exhort corporate Canada to free up all that dead money and invest in jobs. It declined, job creation being more directly tied to an economic rebound in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Therefore, the ability of a provincial politician to get businesses to create jobs, independent of worldwide trends, is minuscule.
However, the converse is true — state measures to selectively stimulate the economy can save jobs, as Stephen Harper helped do with the auto sector. Kathleen Wynne promises to infuse $29 billion into transit and social programs, while Hudak would slash the public payroll and dent household spending (which accounts for 60 per cent of the Ontario economy).
Hudak’s third premise is that Ontario’s deficit, $12.5 billion, and debt, nearly $300 billion, are too high. They are not. One standard measure is to compare debt to GDP (total market value of goods and services). Ontario’sdebt-to-GDP ratio is 38.9 per cent, compared to Ottawa’s 33 per cent. It needs to come down, but it’s not the scandal that Hudak makes it out to be.
Ontario is the leanest government in the country. It employs the least number of civil servants per capita and receives the lowest per capita revenue.
The 1.3 million public sector workers that Hudak demonizes include federal employees in Ontario. The provincial government itself employs only 63,000 people. They provide far superior service than several federal departments or corporate giants like Bell and Rogers, dealing with whom can be a nightmare and whose high profits and astronomical salaries for senior executives are directly tied to reducing the cost of providing service to customers.
Most public sector workers are in municipalities, universities, schools, hospitals, etc. over whom Hudak has little direct control. He can legislate wage freezes and can slash transfer funds, as did Mike Harris.
Hudak is not bothered by evidence that might contradict his Tea Party ideology. He is like Harper, who fires the scientists and cancels the census, not wanting to know that climate warming is not a hoax or that income gaps have reached scandalous levels.
Wynne’s worst enemy is voter fatigue with the Liberal incumbency, even though there has already been a change at the top, thanks to our parliamentary democracy.
Without an American-style recall mechanism in place, public opinion can and does force a change of leadership, mid-term. McGuinty did not have to quit when he did, a year after he had won a minority mandate. He could have waited until his government was defeated in the Legislature, forcing an election, which he could have won or, more likely, lost. But, embroiled in controversies, he resigned. He was gone without causing an expensive election, now brought on by Andrea Horwath.
Wynne has repeatedly and sincerely apologized for the gas plants and put in place transparent measures to avoid a repetition of eHealth and ORNGE.
But Hudak and Horwath say a Liberal is a Liberal is a Liberal. Fair enough. But if she is McGuinty, is Hudak another Harris and Horwath a Bob Rae? Both the Rae and Harris eras were far worse than the McGuinty years.
Hudak and Horwath have gone overboard calling Wynne corrupt and dishonest. They’ve said nothing new that has not already been known about the gas plants and other controversies.
The OPP is investigating ORNGE, as also the destruction of emails by McGuinty’s office. He is co-operating, though “he is not the subject of the investigation.” Nor is Wynne.
Unlike Hudak, Wynne is not an ideologue. Unlike Horwath, she’s not a populist. She listens to people, engages you in conversation without regurgitating memorized talking points. She is a conciliator who eschews personal attacks. After being pummelled for 90 minutes and called names during Tuesday’s televised leaders’ debate, she told Hudak and Horwath: “Fact is, we all believe in public service — we wouldn’t be in politics if we didn’t.”
She has been a good premier in her 16 difficult months in office. Given a chance, she has the potential to be a great premier, in the mould of a Bill Davis.
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