2015 is now history and it is time to look back and reflect on the past year. We have a new federal government that has many issues to contend with: Syrian refugees, a low growth world economy, International terrorism and more. One of their most significant concerns must be the poor performance of its largest provincial economy.
In Ontario, the year ended with a number of serious issues for the Wynne government. More corruption issues arose as charges were laid against the Chief of Staff and the deputy Chief of Staff to former Premier Dalton McGuinty for destroying evidence related to the gas plant scandal. This followed charges laid against Ontario Liberal fundraiser, Gerry Loughheed Jr., in the Sudbury by-election scandal. OPP investigations are also ongoing in the ORNGE Air Ambulance scandal.
The Auditor-General’s 2015 Report was released in early December, highlighting numerous issues. On the energy file, the report identifies politically motivated decisions that ignored the long-term impact on Ontario’s electricity system and where 93 ministerial directives or directions were issued, often going against the advice of the Ontario Power Authority and bypassing Ontario Energy Board Approval. It documents that Ontarians have been overcharged $37 billion for electricity between 2006 and 2014 and will continue to be overcharged another $133 billion over the next 18 years. The Globe and Mail estimates that this is equivalent to $12,325 in excess costs for every person in Ontario. Between 2009 and 2014, our average annual electricity surplus was almost equivalent to the total existing generation capacity of Manitoba. These political decisions are making life unaffordable and our businesses uncompetitive.
The AG also condemned the government’s economic development programs. She revealed that 80 percent of government investment went to an invite-only Liberal slush fund. The Ministry could not provide the auditor with the criteria it used to identify businesses they invited to apply and never even bothered to establish whether the handout recipients needed the money or if the investment actually strengthened the economy or created jobs. Small and medium sized businesses are the main job creators in our province, but only received 4 percent of the billions of dollars of total funding. These practices point to a government that is making decisions based on partisan politics and not on the long term good of its citizens.
Over the next month, I will be meeting with our residents, organizations, businesses, and municipalities to gather input for the upcoming Ontario budget. The Premier is looking for even more revenue as they are proposing new taxes, such as an Ontario carbon tax. Their financial accountability over their 12 years in government has been nothing short of disastrous for the province. They cannot blame the previous federal government, which increased overall transfers to Ontario by 88 percent since 2006, compared to an average of 62 percent to the other provinces. Health care transfers are up 70 percent and last year’s budget saw portions diverted away to general revenue. Despite increasing their annual revenue by 100 percent over their term of government to about $130 billion and doubling of debt to over $294 billion, we have people without doctors, unacceptable wait lists for long term care beds and a lack of infrastructure investment. All this only highlights that the answer is not to give them more money to mismanage, but to change who’s in charge.
On a happier note, Margie and I are happy to have a new addition to our family with the birth of our first grandchild, Alice Rose Brunet, on Saturday night. Marion, Roch and Alice are all are well and we look forward to watching her grow up in the best country in the world. I also want to take this opportunity to wish everyone the Very Best in 2016.