Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne arrives at provincial legislature June 13 after her election victory.

Ontario election lessons for B.C.

Being a Liberal means something very different in Ontario than it does in B.C., based on latest election results

VICTORIA – “Liberal” is becoming one of the most ill-defined words in Canadian politics.

Here in B.C., a Liberal is a Conservative, or at least a fiscal conservative, bent on balancing budgets and battling big unions to force them to recognize today’s world of low growth and low inflation.

In Ottawa, a Liberal is currently whatever Justin Trudeau wakes up and decides. One day he’s a libertarian who wants to legalize marijuana, and the next he’s in touch with his inner Taliban, issuing a moral edict on abortion.

In Ontario, Premier Kathleen Wynne saved her gut-shot Liberal government by limping to the left of the NDP, promising to spend lots more borrowed money and build lots of transit.

This is in a have-not province with an operating deficit that is currently running north of $12 billion. For comparison purposes, B.C.’s deficit swelled briefly beyond $3 billion in the wake of the Great Recession of 2009, and the books stayed in the red until last year as the B.C. Liberals unwound the Harmonized Sales Tax and repaid a $1.6 billion HST transfer allowance to Ottawa.

You think B.C.’s energy policy is a disaster? Check out Ontario, where the cops are still investigating the $1 billion cancellation of plans to construct two natural gas-fired power plants before the 2011 election. The gas plants were to stabilize erratic output from wind and solar power, a European-style climate change gesture that involved Ontario ratepayers giving a huge subsidy to Korean tech giant Samsung.

The Ontario Liberals clung to power in part by promising a provincial pension scheme on the same scale as the Canada Pension Plan.

B.C. has a similar pension program in the works, to be offered to the two thirds of small business and self-employed people who don’t have a group plan with their employer. Ours would, of course, be voluntary.

Not so in Ontario, where large and small businesses will be required to cough up half of the required pension payments.

The Ontario model is dumb on several levels. It is to be imposed just as the baby boom retirement wave breaks across Canada’s most populous province, increasing risk that the pension pool may run dry. And it sticks small business with a new payroll tax in a province that has lost much of its traditional manufacturing base and needs to innovate.

Here’s the funny part, if you don’t live in Ontario. Wynne tabled her spending-spree, deficit-be-damned budget in an effort to convince the NDP to keep propping up the Liberal minority government and avoid an election.

Instead, she won a majority and now has to implement her pie-in-the-sky promises. Ontario is bracing for a downgrade in its credit rating based on the election result, and is about to go into province-wide bargaining with public service unions who want their share from the Liberal money tree.

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak ran on a plan that sounded similar to the one presented by Christy Clark in 2013: hold the line on spending, balance the budget, reduce the size of government, stimulate job creation. Hudak was rejected for a second time, and resigned the leadership on election night.

B.C. voters now have three years to see how the Ontario version of Liberal government plays out, compared to the B.C. Liberal version.

For us, much depends on resource development, including forest products, natural gas and other trade with Asia.

If all goes well here, B.C. can continue to send transfer payments to the fantasyland of Ontario.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

Flurry of Yuletide activities coming to Sidney

Sidney Business Improvement Area Society and members organize festive events

Russell Books marks opening of new location by setting Guinness World Record

Store stacks world record books more than six metres high

Disturbing sexual, criminal trends with Greater Victoria youth on the rise

Family counsellors see unprecedented rise in youth sexual assaults and exploitation of children

PHOTOS: 11th annual Gingerbread Showcase comes to Victoria

Bakers spent more than 100 hours perfecting their creations

Sooke Mounties continue probe into high school hold and secure

No charges yet from last week’s incident

VIDEO: B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

12 Sooke events to get you into the holiday spirit

From a Santa parade to classicial music, Sooke has it all

Seguin lifts surging Stars to 4-2 win over Canucks

Dallas is 6-0-1 in last seven outings

‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

Heather Friesen spent the morning handing out flyers around city hall calling out the mayor

Batten down the hatches: Wet and windy weekend on the way for coastal B.C.

Environment Canada issues special weather warning for Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island

BC Liquor Stores to move fully to paper bags by March

Vancouver Island to be the first to convert to paper bags in November

Tolko shuts B.C. divisions for two weeks over holidays

Head office to close from Dec. 23-27; two weeks’ downtime runs Dec. 21-Jan. 6

B.C. government working with RCMP to address $10 million in budget cuts

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issues statement following report of RCMP cost-cutting

Port Moody mayor says stayed sex assault charge related to ‘awkward date’

Rob Vagramov said charge was related to a string of dates in 2015

Most Read