Robin Hoodwinked: The Kathleen Wynne Liberal Platform

This is the second installment in my take on the platforms of the major contenders for Ontario provincial leadership. You can see the first here.

I’ve already alluded to my natural, human inclination towards bias. In the interest of full disclosure, for those who aren’t already aware, I tend towards being a Liberal supporter. In some circles, that’s almost like saying I like to torture small fuzzy animals, or I eat babies for breakfast and carve up the elderly for dinner. Really, it’s not even fair to say I am a Liberal, since my personal take on things is to look at the issues, measure and weigh the ideas, then choose who I will back based on my best assessment of their relative strength compared to the others. It just happens that the better ideas and policies, certainly the ones that I think have the most value, tend to come from the Liberal Party.

Which brings us to Kathleen Wynne’s election platform, also known as “The May 1st Liberal Budget that was really failed attempt at pandering to the NDP.” Political survival instincts are strong, and with a foul wind blowing Kathleen Wynne crafted a budget that should have surely pleased the NDP enough to earn their support. But, that backfired and the failed budget proposal has now become the backbone of a re-election campaign instead. So, this should be an easy one, really: if the budget makes sense, and benefits Ontarians, then Wynne has a strong case. If it doesn’t, that foul wind just became a true stench.

The Liberals are known as a tax-and-spend party. That means precisely what it says; Liberals believe that you tax people to get revenues that you then spend on various programs. If those programs get more expensive, or you want to add more programs to the offer, taxes need to go up. I’m fine with this concept, really, under the sole condition that the programs being proposed are worth the money that we, as tax payers, are spending, and they have to benefit the collective good.

A cursory perusal of the Liberal budget shows that the programs they are looking to spend money on are improvements to public transit, schools and education, homelessness, support for the developmentally disabled, and healthcare delivery. Sounds good, right? I mean, you’d have to be a real jerk to think that the world for Ontarians would be a better place if people who were sick didn’t get help, roads crumbled and bridges fell (a la Quebec), people were stupid (I’m refraining from declaring that battle already lost,) without a roof over their head and left to suffer with their developmental infirmities. I like driving and riding on good roads. I like having an education. When I’m sick, I want someone to fix me. I don’t like people being homeless, or thinking that people with developmental disabilites are just out of luck. But, what is this all going to cost us? And, where will the money be coming from?

This is where Kathleen Wynne tries to appeal even more to the NDP and the middle class. All those folks that rose up in righteous anger at the 1% and staged protests and sit-ins would be proud, because the target of their ire is also the target of Kathleen Wynne’s fiscal claws. The Liberal budget would go after those who are better off, as well as big corporations. Revenue would be drawn, in part, by raising the income tax rate for those making more than $150k per year. Income tax for the rest of us little people would remain unchanged. Smokers would also take a hit, paying more for their habit in the way of taxes. Aviation fuel would get more expensive because of an increase in taxes there as well.

Tax the rich and deviant to give to the poor(er).

That still doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

Except us little folk would take a bit of a hit, too. One of the key propositions is the creation of an Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, for those of us who do not have a pension plan offered through our employer. This program would be mandatory. Corporations would be expected to fund a part of it, but so would the worker, which means that we would have a deduction imposed on our paycheques. It’s for our own good, of course, but, regardless, it means less money coming home with us from our paycheque, and more money coming out of the operating expenses of a small business.

The increase in aviation fuel tax spells trouble as well, since this cost would simply be passed on as an increased burden for travellers. Want to go on vacation? It’s more expensive. Want to ship your goods across the country? Better raise you prices to offset the increased cost in shipping cargo. This one could doubly hurt, because travellers wouldn’t travel, and prices in stores would increase to maintain margins hit by freight cost.

Public sector workers would be expected to come back to earth a little, with cuts in store for their own pension benefits to bring them more in line with what those in the private sector have available to them.

The budget will get balanced. How, we’re not entirely sure. None of the math adds up, and seems to indicate that the Liberals would somehow reduce the deficit at an annual rate ten times faster than the rate we have experienced for the last four years. This is being described by some analysts as “fanciful” and “unfathomable.”

Oh, and there’s the pipe-dream of building a road to the Ring of Fire, which is wholly contingent on the Federal Government matching the money earmarked by the Provincial Liberals, and the creation of some sort of cooperative good-will with the native community. Because, let’s face it, it doesn’t matter if you have the money and the means to build a road, if that road needs to cross land that your’re not allowed on.

So, what does this all mean? Well, it means Kathleen Wynne built a budget to court NDP support. And, a very NDP budget it is, complete with the usual NDP lack for a credible plan for funding all of their feel-good ideas. Sure, these ideas sound fantastic, and they hit all the buzzwords of trimming the fat from the rich to support and grow the not-rich. But, there is more than enough pain here to go around, as the Pension Plan, public sector cut-backs and air travel costs show. At the end of the day, not unlike Tim Hudak, the math of the finances simply doesn’t add up either, leaving us with the big question of whether or not the budget will actually be balanced at the end of this exercise. The ideas are better, but no more realistic than those outlined in the Million Jobs Plan. The only distinct up-side to these unrealistic expectations is that they would deliver something good for everyone, whereas Hudak’s fanciful ideas would more often deliver something bad. Still, promising something bad and not delivering is only marginally different from promising something good and still not delivering.

Who to vote for, you ask?

Well, there’s still one party left to be heard from…

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