Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: A Tough but Needed Budget: Editorial Exchange: A Tough but Needed Budget

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: A Tough but Needed Budget: Editorial Exchange: A Tough but Needed Budget

Article excerpt

An editorial from the Waterloo Region Record, published March 28:

The people of Ontario have just been tossed a lifesaver by the same provincial government that pushed them into the deep end in the first place.

They should grab that lifesaver -- the budget brought down Tuesday -- because it promises to save Ontario from a full-blown economic disaster. But they should never forget that the government doing the rescuing is the government largely responsible for the predicament we're in, and the grim days ahead.

That these Liberals are finally making difficult decisions and taking necessary, though unpopular, action should not be denied. For the first time since the 2008-09 recession, they are not merely talking about reining in government spending that has long been out of control -- they are proposing drastic, comprehensive and reasonable measures to get the job done. The budget pledges an impressive $17.7 billion in savings over the next three years as well as $4.4 billion in new revenues.

Most significant of all is the recognition by Finance Minister Dwight Duncan that the only way to end government overspending -- of the kind that will saddle Ontario with a $15.2-billion deficit in the coming year alone -- is to seize the nettle of public sector entitlements and keep them from growing. These entitlements account for roughly half of program spending.

Not only is Duncan demanding a two-year wage freeze for the provincial public sector, he is willing to back up his demand with legislation. In addition, Duncan is ready to lasso the sacred cow of public sector pensions and usher them into a more affordable corral. This is a major breakthrough.

The government must save money this way. Ontario's net debt will hit $260.4 billion in the coming year -- the highest debt in the province's history. If we do nothing, we will smash into a debt wall. Even now, it costs us more than $10 billion a year to service our debt -- Ontario's third biggest expense after health and education. If we keep driving it up and if, as one lending agency warned, we are hit by higher interest rates, we will be unable to pay our bills without crippling personal and corporate tax hikes, devastating service cuts or a combination of both. …

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