The Toronto Star reports that, “Former federal Liberal finance minister John Manley is urging Ontario treasurer Dwight Duncan to ‘declare war’ on the provincial debt in this month’s budget. Manley, president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, has sent an open letter to Duncan imploring him to stanch the bleeding of red ink at Queen’s Park.”
Manley’s five suggestions? 1. “Resist the siren call to lower the HST, even by one point.” 2. “Services that can be delivered effectively by, or in partnership with, the private sector should be transferred to it.” 3. “Your fastest growing expense is health care, which is gradually crowding out other areas of the provincial budget. You are in urgent need of a review of this, our most important social program, because it will require more money in the years ahead, and you will not be able to afford to borrow that money. Why not name a high-level provincial task force to look at options going forward?” 4. “Ontario’s twin challenges of an aging population and weak productivity growth will limit the future growth of government revenues. Don’t rely on projected rates of revenue growth based on outdated assumptions. The situation calls for extreme prudence.” 5. “Minimizing the tax and regulatory burden for business is vitally important. You deserve credit for reducing the regulatory burden by handing over to the federal government the responsibility to collect both corporate income tax and sales tax. …Why not commit to an ongoing review of the province’s regulatory environment with help from a thoughtful outside panel?”
The report adds, “Manley…noted Ontario’s debt soon will hit $237 billion, including the stranded debt from the old Ontario Hydro. ‘Interest on that debt will cost taxpayers $9.7 billion — more than your government’s total spending on post-secondary education and training,’ he continued. The finance minister pointed out that Ontario, which has a budget deficit of $18.7 billion this year, is scheduled to balance the books by 2017-18. ‘We’ve laid out a pretty robust plan for getting back to balance,’ said Duncan, who will table his budget in the next three weeks.”
“Duncan told reporters at Queen’s Park on Tuesday that he met with Manley last month and shares many of his concerns.”
“(Opposition leader Conservative Tim) Hudak said ‘obviously the McGuinty government has no plan to get spending under control.’ …NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, however, rejected Manley’s pitch. ‘The only kind of spending that Canada’s richest corporations support are their own multibillion-dollar tax cuts,’ said Horwath. ‘Instead they say look to the other parts of the budget.’”
The Toronto Star report is at http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/950684–former-finance-minister-john-manley-urges-war-on-debt?bn=1.