Straight talk from Dalton McGuinty draws Tim Hudak’s ire

TheStar.com –
Published On Wed May 12 2010.  By Jim Coyle, Queen’s Park

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times was not the only analyst to find a harbinger of austerity and belt-tightening for this part of the world in the recent British election and the riots in Greece.

But Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is fond of Friedman and his pop-economy ilk (it’s not for nothing that New Yorker superstar Malcolm Gladwell is the featured speaker at a Liberal conference this weekend in Collingwood). So that’s likely the critique that caught his eye.

Politics in the immediate future, Friedman wrote Sunday, will be not about giving things to voters but about taking them away.

Governments will have to figure out how to raise some taxes to increase revenues, while cutting others to stimulate growth, he said. They’ll have to cut some services to save money, while investing in new infrastructure to increase economic capacity.

Politicians, Friedman wrote, are going to have to get “a lot smarter and more honest.”

Actually, McGuinty has done fairly well in the working smarter category. His last year or so has been – as Friedman prescribed – about cutting some taxes, raising others, making a beginning on spending restraint, while continuing to invest in infrastructure.

Increasingly, the premier is also speaking frankly about what faces Ontario, even as economic forecasts improve and the worst of the recession seems over.

Recently, he has challenged Ontarians to accept that their children’s well-being depends on sacrifice in the here and now, in bringing a deficit of $21.3 billion back to balance and in addressing health-care costs that, if not curbed, threaten to single-handedly empty the public purse.

“Why is it that our grandparents and parents have always found a way to step it up and do something for the next generation, but, somehow, we say we can’t adjust to those things, we are not prepared to do difficult things that they used to do in the old days.”

This generation does not have world war or Depression with which to contend, he said, but “we have a more challenging and more competitive world and, as a society, our generation has got to step it up.”

Bizarrely, PC Leader Tim Hudak saw these remarks as another opportunity to attack McGuinty’s character.

“Unbelievably, he has now trivialized soldiers, veterans and their families by likening his

HST to the sacrifices of soldiers,” Hudak said in a release.

“Dalton McGuinty has become so disconnected from reality he believes paying more taxes is comparable to war and the Depression.”

Well, that’s plainly not what the premier said. In fact, it was rather the opposite.

What he said was that previous generations rose to the highest sort of challenge. Meeting the far easier one arising in our time and place is the least we can do.

If Friedman is right, and if politicians are going to have to “get more honest,” Hudak is going to have get with the times, too.

He can hardly continue to attack the HST while refusing, if it be so abhorrent, to undo it if elected.

He can hardly continue to call for the reining in of health spending and have his caucus railing at the pharmacy reforms that are the first real bid to do so.

One Hudak outburst Tuesday during Question Period was particularly egregious.

“You don’t care about Ontario seniors,” he hollered at McGuinty. “You don’t care about Ontario families. You don’t even care about the Liberal caucus. All you care about is Dalton McGuinty himself!”

If the times demand much of Ontarians, they also demand better than that from a man who would be premier.

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