Without a Paddle: Wynne Liberals are sinking Ontario

Last week Premier Kathleen Wynne joined a youth canoe expedition and paddled from one end of our riding to the other – right from Rainy Lake across Lake of the Woods to Kenora – the final leg of the Métis Nation of Ontario’s 3-month, 2,200-kilometre journey from Ottawa.

The journey is an impressive feat for the youth, but sadly, also the exact sort of drive-by, photo-op presence the Northwest has grown accustomed to from the Wynne Liberals. (Canoeing, of course, plays well in the southern media markets the Liberals prioritize, and comes right from the Prime Minister’s media playbook.)

Wynne goes to great lengths to avoid confrontations during her tours of our region (the turbulent reception she received in the Kawarthas on August 2 is illustrative). Her much-publicized participation in the canoe voyage (“while on her vacation”) is the perfect cover to touch-down in our communities, glad-hand with a friendly audience, and keep a safe distance from the public, community leaders, and tough questions.

This is a repeated pattern when it comes to Kenora—Rainy River. One year ago, Wynne was criticized by Rainy River District municipal leaders for visiting the area and declining to make time to meet with them until pressured to do so. In 2014, when a coalition of local representatives chartered a plane to go to Queen’s Park to pressure the government to take action to preserve the forestry rights for the shuttered Resolute mill in Fort Frances, the Liberals sabotaged them by booking a press conference at the same time the delegation was to meet with reporters.

These incidents are each deliberate decisions by the Premier’s handlers. They know that northerners are right to be upset about the Liberals’ mismanagement of hydro (a story that keeps unearthing one bad deal after another) and her party’s threat to cripple small businesses with an overnight hike to their payroll. It is no secret that Wynne’s approval rating is at an all-time low, and trails that of her counterparts across the country.

Of course, we should respect anyone who puts their name forward for public service, including Premier Wynne. Electoral politics is not an easy calling, and for MPPs, there are few incentives other than the satisfaction of a job well done. But that doesn’t mean that everyone is suited to the task of governance, nor that one’s suitability doesn’t expire with changing times, or survive new revelations of scandal and waste. It is clear that this government’s best before date is long overdue.

The McGuinty-Wynne Liberals have shamelessly saddled future generations with debt. The Liberals have promised to get Ontario’s debt back to 2006 levels by 2030 – what one Ottawa Citizen editorial calls “a 24-year-odyssey to get back to where we started.” The Liberals’ plan calls for debt to increase by an average of $11.4 billion a year for the next three years (which is just slightly less than the average of $11.6 billion over the last three years).

And that’s being optimistic. The National Post reported on August 11 that “The [Ontario] government now purports to have balanced its budget, but its debt levels keep rising and the province’s debt-to-GDP ratio is projected to remain above pre-recession levels until 2040.”

Moreover, the Fraser Institute analyzed the Liberals’ debt management timeline and concluded that, “[T]he government’s selection of a target date so far into the future exposes the provincial economy to a number of costs and risks, including increased spending on debt service payments over time. … [T]he government’s timeline for achieving even this unambitious target date relies on several questionable assumptions and therefore is not entirely credible.”

Sadly, we can expect more reckless spending from this government – especially over the next 10 months as the Liberals attempt to buy their way back into office after the June election – all with your money. The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour, and we know they’re not above that.

For all Premier Wynne’s boat rowing, life is not but a dream in Ontario. In many respects, it has taken a turn for the nightmarish under the Liberals’ 14-year term. In Kenora—Rainy River, the no-show NDP has been complicit through their absence.

As we round out the dog days of summer, the Liberals desperately want to change the channel. They hope these sunny photo ops will trigger our political amnesia ahead of next June’s election. But the families I talk to get a monthly reminder of the Liberals’ mismanagement in the form of their hydro bill, and all eyes will be tuned to a Sudbury courtroom when Wynne takes the stand in a bribery trial in September.

Winter is coming, and the north remembers – and deserves a real voice in government that enforces fiscal responsibility. The Wynne Liberals will be held accountable in the Legislature, and at the polls.

Douglas W. Judson is a lawyer based in Fort Frances who is pursuing the Ontario PC Party nomination in Kenora—Rainy River. Connect with him at info@douglasjudson.ca or @dwjudson on Twitter.

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