Ontario Election Thoughts

September 25th, 2011 by Potato

The election is coming up soon in Ontario, and I still haven’t made my mind up about who to vote for.

I’m mixed on the Liberals and Dalton McGuinty. Though he has some good ideas over the years, the execution has been terrible. Coming out of the horrible Harris years, Dalton came to power on the promise that he’d fix the PC’s mess without raising taxes. That lasted what, a month? Ok, so he had to raise taxes (and unlike Harper/Flaherty, did seem to put forward a case for that being justified). Except instead of just owning up to it and raising income taxes or sales taxes, or even doing something truly innovative like bringing in a carbon tax, the Liberals brought in the Ontario Health Premium: a regressive tax that is very visible: what is it, 9 years later and that one still sticks in people’s craws; a less visible hike in the existing income taxes would have been both more progressive and may even have been forgotten by now. And no one was fooled into thinking that he kept his no tax increases promise.

Bringing in electronic medical records is a brilliant idea hailed by many in the medical and research communities, and solutions are being sought to digitize medical records all over the world. The execution became one of the province’s biggest scandals (e-health). Something called academic detailing is another neat idea: taking the tricks of the pharmaceutical sales trade and applying them to improve health outcomes, promote evidence-based care, and control costs. It involves sending educators out to provide short on-site visits with physicians, giving them information on proper prescribing practices and evidence-based medicine updates. Yet I don’t think it ever got very far — that document I linked is from 2009, and at the end of that year a new health minister came in and I haven’t heard anything about it since.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the Guidelines Advisory Committee. There we had a case of a small organization building up in the early years, in this case building human capital with specialized knowledge, tools, and training in its small staff, only to have that thrown away for apparently no reason (the GAC was well-regarded both in Ontario and internationally, and was cheap). Provincial funding was cut in 2008 and the GAC was enveloped by an independent non-profit organization. Then the Excellent Care for All Act was passed in 2010, and all of a sudden there was a legislated need for someone to do exactly what the GAC had been doing just a two years before. Yet rather than resurrect the GAC (which still existed within that non-profit, maintaining the expertise and human capital), the government started from scratch, giving the mandate to the Ontario Health Quality Council (now renamed Health Quality Ontario).

Promoting green energy is a good idea, but the solar FIT program has been unsuccessful because administration issues are preventing projects from getting approval, and the rate offered may have been too lucrative. The smart meter program should not have been introduced at the same time as a general hike in electricity rates, as now people associate the TOU pricing with the higher prices. Dalton made a commitment to reduce coal emissions, but has dragged his feet on getting a new nuclear plant constructed to replace the coal generation (the plant should have been an excellent infrastructure project to get the economy going in 2009, and instead it hasn’t even been decided on yet!).

Another example is the court system (this one also includes Harris): the administration systems around our courts are ludicrous. So there was a push to computerize some of the bookings. A privatized system seems to have worked, but rather than expand that one to the rest of the court system, the government is starting a new “e-court” program from scratch.

Lots of good ideas and good intentions, but the outcomes have left much to be desired. So I’m left feeling disappointed in the provincial Liberals, but disappointment from my government is nothing new. Still, that’s worlds better than how I remember the Harris years (insanity from the top, privatizing anything and everything, and deterioration in health care and education while strikes were constant). And the new crop of PCs leave little to consider as alternatives.

I encourage you to watch Jon Stewart’s interview with former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm

JS “The big idea floating around right now is that we must do everything we can for corporations…”

JG “Everything that’s happening to this country happened in Michigan first, because we never came out of the 2001/2002 recession. Everybody now is scratching their heads ‘how do you create jobs in this global economy?’ It’s not by the solutions that are being proposed by many, just cut taxes and cut government. Just as an example from the laboratory that is Michigan, I cut taxes 99 times in my two terms as governor… cut a lot of taxes, cut government more than any state in the nation, cut employees, cut spending. We were 48th in the country in terms of size of government by the time I left office. And you would think that with all those tax cuts, all that government reduction that we would be #1 in employment, right? If that were the solution. But, alas, we were #1 in unemployment for many years in the past decade. Why? Something else was going on. […] Those old theories were not applicable…”

JS “That’s what I was trying to say yesterday […] you could offer 0% tax rate to corporations, like Apple, but that still doesn’t mean they’re going to make their iphones, the parts, anyplace but China… don’t you think these corporations begin to look at us like a desperate suitor? […] What are we supposed to do?”

JG “…No state has the ability to compete against China […] the only thing that worked in Michigan, and the reason why in 2010 things started to turn around […] because the Obama administration gave us the opportunity to partner with the private sector to compete with federal grants and [targeted] state incentives and partner with universities […] it was only through that investment that we were able to go.”

In short, tax cuts do not work to stimulate the economy. Tax cuts do not work to create jobs. It’s been demonstrated again and again. So it’s with great dismay that I see one of the three main parties in this Ontario election put out their “jobs plan” and the central pillar is: tax cuts. Never mind that this was already a party with ridiculous notions (e.g.: the gutting of public education alongside the promise of money for religious schools; tax cuts alongside huge spending promises in their latest platform, yet while also promising to somehow balance the budget).

The NDP may be a good alternative in terms of policy (I honestly haven’t read their platform in detail yet), but they just don’t seem to have a chance in this race. While I’ve been critical of the Liberals at the beginning here, I think I will vote for them again. The problem is that their ideas are still the most closely aligned with mine, and I don’t see a strong alternative — though I am disappointed, they are still the best option before me. And, to be fair, I haven’t given them credit for the things they have managed to do right (sometimes in just one try!).

Sometime this week I’ll go through the NDP platform, but at this point I think I know which way I lean.

2 Responses to “Ontario Election Thoughts”

  1. Netbug Says:

    With a race this close, would a vote for NDP be a “wasted” vote?

  2. Potato Says:

    After what happened in the federal election, I’m certainly more worried about strategic voting than ever.