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Nobody cares about the deficit
And Doug Ford knows it
Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy outlined the government’s proposed $200-billion budget Thursday, which will serve as a blueprint for Premier Doug Ford and his PCs’ next four years after their all-but-inevitable re-election on June 2.
Whether Ford changes track upon re-election, the fact that he’s running on a platform of deficit spending for the entire duration of his second term suggests an appetite for continued government spending as the pandemic recovery begins to take shape.
The question isn’t if governments should go into debt, but what their priorities are once they do so.
The Globe and Mail predictably framed its coverage around concern for the budget’s deficit projections:
For Mr. Bethlenfalvy, a PC Finance Minister who actually downgraded Liberal-run Ontario when he was at credit-rating agency DBRS Ltd. during the financial crisis in 2009, the budget does contain something that might come as a surprise: A higher deficit and no plan for a balanced budget until 2027-28.
For this fiscal year, 2022-23, the budget projects a deficit of $19.9-billion (including $1-billion in reserve funds, which if unspent would go to reduce the deficit.) This is actually up from last year’s $13.5-billion, despite the fact that the figure includes billions the province spent on battling the ongoing pandemic.
Liberal-friendly Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn similarly accepted this Canadian Taxpayers Federation-style framing, arguing that “[b]y banking on nearly $200 billion in government spending, the Tories are buying your votes with your money.”
Cohn continues, drowning the reader in numbers that have no impact on most of their lives:
This good news budget is designed to drown out the bad news of the pandemic, while papering over the big news that rising interest rates will burden the province with bigger borrowing costs. The accumulated debt will grow to $428.7 billion in this budget — an increase of roughly $105 billion in the five years since the last Liberal budget was approved in 2017-18, owing to recurring deficits left behind by all three major parties in power.
Much of the budget’s contents have already been revealed to the public — scrapping licence plate renewal fees, expanding highways and roads, a 5.7-cent per litre gas tax cut, and minor increases in healthcare spending.
This widespread acceptance of increased government spending gives Ontario’s opposition parties an opening to articulate a clear vision of government that spends generously on the public good by shifting the tax burden upwards, rather than pandering to individual needs through a grab bag of tax credits.
The NDP’s vague platform isn’t up to this task, Robert Hiltz wrote in Passage yesterday, arguing that putting any faith in the Dippers after their lacklustre performance in four years as Official Opposition is “a setup for more disappointment.”
The vote split between the NDP and Liberals — who are now virtually indistinguishable — all but guarantees Ontarians will get “Ford more years,” as the premier’s late brother Rob was fond of saying.
In other news …
Video footage confirms Members of Ukraine’s far-right Azov Battalion have received Canadian training as recently as 2020 through the Canadian military’s Operation UNIFIER, despite being formally excluded from its exercises.
An Azov spokesperson fighting in Mariupol told CTV News the regiment was able to draft its own courses and “were instructors in all disciplines in the National Guard of Ukraine training centre.”
Journalist Christy Somos found footage of Azov forces training with Canadian instructors in 2019 on Azov leader Kyrylo Berkal’s social media page.
A spokesperson for the Canadian Armed Forces said all troops on Operation UNIFIER are “briefed to help them recognize patches and insignia associated with right-wing extremism.”
Radio-Canada also reported a few weeks ago that video footage of a Canadian training mission showed soldiers with insignia associated with the Azov movement as recently as 2020 at the western-backed Zolochiv training centre in Western Ukraine.
Either Canadian Forces aren’t being briefed well or many of them are sympathetic to the far-right, which the Canadian government admits is a deep-rooted problem.
About 500 motorcyclists are coming to downtown Ottawa this weekend in another far-right, pro-COVID cavalcade.
Interim Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell said cops have “absolutely no ability” to prevent the motorcycle rally from occurring, but that officers are preparing tow trucks and physical barriers for a planned “riot” on Saturday.
“People are nervous, but they’re also fed up, and residents that I’m hearing from are not going to take any incursion into their neighbourhoods by white supremacist, racist, extreme groups,” Ottawa city councillor Catherine McKenney said in reference to the month-long occupation of downtown Ottawa by a far-right truck convoy earlier this year.
The Ottawa Police Services Board has approved the presence of hundreds of RCMP officers this weekend to assist the local police force if necessary.
Edited by Eric Wickham
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