To the surprise of his ardent supporters and fierce opponents, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced Monday evening that he will be stepping down as premier after serving as the Liberal leader for 16 years and premier for nine years.
Ontario voters first captured a glimpse of McGuinty when he was elected in 1990 for Ottawa South. Six years later, he was elected leader during the 1996 Liberal leadership convention in a victory over then-Member of Provincial Parliament Gerard Kennedy. In 2003, McGuinty’s Grits captured a majority government and claimed to tackle four deficits left by the Premier Ernie Eves and the Progressive Conservatives: education, fiscal, health and infrastructure deficits.
Who would have known that the man, who promised not to raise taxes and not maintain deficit-spending, would wreak so much havoc over at Queen’s Park that the province may never fully recover from?
In the Toronto Star early Monday morning, it published a piece titled “Dalton McGuinty resigns: Premier leaves a solid legacy.” It’s a befuddling piece considering how the Liberal leader’s legacy will be marred with nothing but scandals, incompetence and broken promises. Essentially, McGuinty will be remembered as the man who spoke in opposites (when he said something it was usually the opposite).
As most of the provincial media outlets are profiling McGuinty and his history as the premier on Tuesday, let’s look at the top five reasons as to why we should not praise such a leader, but instead critique his many tax increases, scandals and budget deficits.
1) $1 billion-plus eHealth Scandal
In 2009, Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter published an investigative report into the eHealth agency, an agency designed to create electronic health records for the province. McCarter’s scathing report looked at how the provincial government wasted $1 billion in taxpayer money.
The Auditor General report criticized the government’s handling of the money, showed favouritism towards certain companies and allowed contractors to abuse taxpayer dollars, such as receiving a $110,000 bonus for less than a year’s work and charging constituents $3.99 for cookies.
“Ontario taxpayers have not received value for money for this $1 billion investment,” said McCarter at a news conference three years ago. “When you have a lack of oversight, that's a lack of appropriate management. When you get a lack of oversight, you get broken rules. It goes together like a horse and carriage.”
2) Power Plant Cancellations
Last month, I wrote an op-ed piece urging PC leader Tim Hudak to step down in order for McGuinty to lose power. In it, I wrote about how the government cancelled construction of Mississauga and Oakville power plants just days before the election and that it cost taxpayers $180 million. How could I be so naive? One month later, that number has skyrocketed to rough estimates of $733 million and counting.
During last year’s provincial election campaign, Hudak and Ontario New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath accused the premier’s decision as purely political.
In July of this year, Energy Minister Chris Bentley announced that taxpayers would be on the hook for $190 million. Two months later, Speaker of the Legislature Dave Levac ruled that Bentley did not turn over all of the documents. The Liberals then released all 36,000 documents and it revealed the cancellation is actually $230 million – the opposing sides say it will instead be $650 million.
The Financial Post published an in-depth report about the true costs and is definitely a must-read.
3) “I won’t raise your taxes” and “We won’t spend money we don’t have”
These are interesting statements coming from a man who did quite the opposite: he raised taxes and ran deficits. In his nine years, the premier didn’t see a tax or tax hike he didn’t like.
What are some of the taxes he introduced or increased? Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), health tax, corporate tax, small business taxes, eco tax, disposal tax, tax on alcohol and surtax on high-income earners (originally proposed by Horwath).
Despite all of these new taxes and tax hikes, Queen’s Park still runs a deficit. As of Oct. 15, the provincial government runs a $14.4 billion deficit (when it comes to government statistics, always increase it by at least 10 percent).
Indeed, the province is still spending money it doesn’t have.
4) BonusesThe Canadian Press revealed that 8,700 out of 8,900 eligible civil servants received bonuses in 2011, which cost the taxpayers $35.6 million. This came after the McGuinty government assured Ontarians that it was serious about tackling spending and freezing pay in the public sector.
Although the “performance pay” totals have dropped by 30 percent since 2009, at least according to the government, the number of people earning more than $100,000 on the “sunshine list” is up 10 percent from a year prior.
Meanwhile, the highest bonus given was about 12 percent of the individual’s salary and the lowest was 0.46 percent.
It was hard to pick the final attachment to McGuinty’s legacy. Should it have been his spending addiction? His other lies and grandiose promises? No, it had to be the ORNGE scandal that plagued the government throughout 2012 (until the Power Plant scandal that is).
There are no exact totals how much Ornge has cost the taxpayers, but there are some numbers to put into perspective:
- $1.4 million salary to President and CEO Chris Mazza and was off the annual “sunshine list”
- The Auditor General reported the government paid Ornge more than $700 million over a five-year period and the agency had to borrow an extra $300 million for aircraft purchases
- Ambulance costs rose 20 percent, but transported six percent fewer patients
- Health Minister Deb Matthews said she didn’t know what happened to $25 million worth of missing Ornge funds
- It was reported that Ornge made rent payments 40 percent higher than the market rate, which amounts to more than $2 million
I’m sorry Toronto Star; McGuinty does not leave behind a “solid legacy.” Instead, I think Ontarians should demand reimbursement from McGuinty for all of the misery he has brought upon Ontario taxpayers over the past nine years.
McGuinty, you have all of our addresses so I’m sure you can send us cheques and letters of apology in the mail once you’re finished as premier. McGuinty will continue to serve as MPP and there are rumors going around that he is seeking the federal Liberal leadership. Please give me a note of assurance that you will not. Who am I kidding? He is Pinocchio.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com