So after weeks and weeks of anticipation, after Dalton built up his new and exciting plan for health care in a great big honking speech, after we were told that things were really going to be different this time, promise, pinky swear, with sugar on top.....Deb Matthews got in front of a room and basically said that they were going to give the LHINs more authority. Surgery clinics will be doing more procedures but she won't say which procedures. Money will go to home care services instead of nursing homes.
These are, of course, the same LHINs that have been accused of being less than frugal by provincial auditors and other such people.
Now, I'm not going to write another post about how McGuinty has no clue what he's doing and that he's completely stranded himself. That much is obvious. The fact that he's killing his credibility with this shilly-shallying is also obvious.
No, instead I'm going to point out how McGuinty's predicament proves that if we let people to their own devices, they will never, ever, turn against the government like Principled Conservatives expect them to.
Deb Matthews isn't going to take one red cent out of health care because she knows that people will never accept the taking of one red cent out of the health care budget. Matthews is a Liberal. She's supposed to keep on blandly reassuring people that things are OK when they really aren't, because that's what keeps you elected. Sure the system is eventually going to collapse on itself, but that'll happen a long time from now. And thinking about what's going to happen a long time from now is hard. And McGuinty isn't going to pull a Paul Martin and start chopping away at the deficit even if he'd like to, because Paul Martin ended up going from Mr. Deficit Slayer to Mr. Dithers once he got control of the Liberals, and then he lost to Harper. And McGuinty won't make the same mistake.
The idea amongst Principled Conservatives is that if they were in charge, they'd privatize and slash and burn until the deficit was dead. Wouldn't that be beautiful. But it never happens. Those silly moderates keep getting to run the show, and they never can be counted on to do what needs to be done. When Conservatives get into government, they cut a tax or two, but when it comes to cutting spending, well....Mike Harris got called a murderer this week by kids at Ryerson who were probably 10 years old when Harris was Premier. The rest of them are quite happy to continue spending, and...well, then they end up on the Liberal War Room Boss's "Tory Times Are Tough Times" chart. Never mind that they wanted to cut spending, but didn't want to be called murderers for doing it.
So the last guy who got serious about cutting Ontario's deficit is a murderer in the minds of university students who never felt the pinch from those cuts, nobody likes the last Liberal Prime Minister who got serious about the deficit, and we've got everyone from Rob Ford to the leaders of the nations of Europe trying to keep from being ripped apart by restive citizens who don't want to let go of what they've gotten used to.
And that's the key. That's the real problem. Blaming the government is only part of the problem, because all governments are doing is trying to shield themselves from angry people who will turf any government that tries to make the kind of changes that are necessary to get through this crisis. They elected Rob Ford, then they devoted themselves to ensuring that not one dollar of city services would be cut.
I don't care how much Canada has supposedly shifted to the right over the last couple of decades. Until a politician can announce without hesitation that health care spending, or education spending, or city services spending needs to be cut significantly, it's all just a drop in the bucket. When Mike Harris is not called a murderer for doing what was necessary to dig Ontario out of the hole it was in after Bob Rae got done with it, then I might listen to what people have to say about "rationality" and "free choice."
Until then, any government, Liberal, Conservative or otherwise, that wants to get serious about cutting the deficit needs to force the cuts (or the tax increases, as the case may be) down the throats of the people that elected it. There's no other way, because people have shown that they are incapable of accepting that the party is over on their own. People want womb-to-tomb government care. They took to the streets a few months ago and Occupied various spaces around the country because they thought the government wasn't doing enough to help the 99%. They feel aggrieved. They feel hard done by. And God help you if you try to tell them differently, because they ain't listening.
The people of Ontario would rather blame Mike Harris for their troubles than accept that Dalton has anything to do with the current state of affairs. They will give all sorts of reasons for not voting PC, but they all stem from the fact that once upon a time, Mike Harris cut spending and that was unacceptable.
But Mike Harris had something going for him, and that was that he didn't care one whit for what people said about him. He doesn't even care to this day that people hate him. (Look, he says so himself.) And the instant that the PC Party started caring about what their haters had to say, the bottom fell out from under them and it hasn't been restored since.
I believe that the day that the PC Party of Ontario has the courage to get up in front of Ontarians and say, "We're going to kill the deficit, and we're going to cut a whole lot of services to do it, and we're going to impose Conservative principles on you, and we don't particularly care if you don't like it" is the day that they will start looking like the party that governed the province of Ontario for the better part of its existence.
Because if nothing else, doing that will get people to understand that they had better know what's best for them and that they had better be rational and make their own choices, because the government sure isn't going to be doing those things for them anymore.