The Doug Ford-led Progressive Conservative Party win in Ontario has been trumpeted as a fresh new start for Ontarians by party supporters and lamented as a dark cold era by party critics.
By the time Ford was officially sworn in as Premier of Ontario, the mudslinging from both sides of the ideological spectrum had buried deep any chance of rational debate about the issues this province must deal with.
One of these issues is poverty. Ford has made it clear he plans to seek savings for the Ontarian people in the form of “efficiencies” that will help make things more affordable, especially for the most vulnerable members of our society.
The problem is, the term “efficiencies” was often used during the Mike Harris “Common Sense” Revolution to mean government spending reduction in the form of cuts. This resulted in halving welfare payouts, downloading some services to the local level which in turn created a new generation of homelessness in major cities like Toronto, and left transit systems with a shortage of funding. It pitted urbanites against ruralites. It divided a once united province into two factions of “us” and “them” on every front imaginable. It was a noisy time of protest, sometimes extremely violent.
In the end, the Common Sense Revolution did nothing for the everyday Ontarian. It certainly did a lot of harm to the most vulnerable members of society I spoke about earlier.
The path Premier Ford is about to take will fail for the same reason why the Common Sense Revolution failed. It’s a mistake to assume that finding money to cut — be it a CEO of Hydro and the board’s combined salaries, funding for social assistance programs, or investments in green energy programs — and giving it instead as a tax cut is going to make things better. It won’t.
If there are no programs to help the less fortunate find affordable housing, obtain gainful employment, find release from addiction, or pursue post-secondary education, having that extra $786 annually (a maximum) for those earning $42,960 and $85,923 per year won’t help. In fact, according to one economist, Doug Ford’s platform will benefit high income earners the most.
There’s a reason why the term “most vulnerable members of society” is applied to the poor and homeless. They feel the effects of sudden economic, socio-political, and environmental changes more than those who are more stable in terms of shelter and employment. When that happens, these same people remain stuck where they are no matter how hard they try to change their predicament.
Any cuts to programs in the name of efficiency-finding won’t put more money back into the hands of the everyday man. That money will instead shift to increased hospital , law enforcement, and sanitation costs that poverty invariably brings. In the long term, those costs will have to be paid for later. Most likely, it will be paid for by a tax increase enacted in the next government — just like what the Dalton McGuinty government did after the era of the Common Sense Revolution ended.
At the same time, having the poor and homeless in a state of unproductiveness robs both the provincial economy of consumer revenue and the government of tax revenue that could go back into services that benefit every Ontarian: transit, roads, electrical grid, health care, and so on.
Doug Ford is a successful businessman yet he has forgotten that sometimes you have to spend money in order to make money. Investment in social programs in the short term reduces the need for them in the long run.
Thanks for reading!