Thursday, January 5, 2012

No Way Out

Don Drummond is on track to becoming my new favourite person. Not just because he has the Liberals in a bind with his upcoming report, which we got a sneak preview of today, but also because his weighing in signals that a time of change is at hand for the entire province of Ontario.

Nothing and no one will be spared, the former federal bureaucrat and retired bank economist says. Despite the temptation to go easy in certain areas and avoid political controversy, his commission has pulled no punches in its attempt to transform the way Ontario operates — and spends.

“There are going to be a ton of things in our recommendations that the government is not going to be pleased with,” he muses.

And the public should also brace for bitter medicine: “There will be lots of negative reaction, lots of anger.”

You had better believe it. The era of non-ideological Bill Davis blandness is at an end. Instead, the people of Ontario will be forced to confront the hard truths that we on the right have been talking about for years.

Oh, but don't worry. Dalton is going to delay as long as he can. Drummond, like the Auditor General and the Ombusdman, doesn't run the show. And if Dalton says that Drummond's recommendations don't fit with his plans to Move Ontario Forward, well, then he'll just direct his people to publish an embarassing list of Don Drummond's personal expenses and that will be that.

For Dalton is not going to do this:

And health care faces radical surgery to bend the cost curves even harder — down to less than half of what hospitals have counted on for annual increases. That means yearly increments must be scaled back — not just down to 3 per cent as the government had planned, but pushed even further to 2.5 per cent, or less than half of the annual rises until now (about $1.2 billion less than hospitals had been counting on).

Or this:

Universities and colleges also face new cost pressures — and performance obligations — to reduce waste if they want to continue receiving government funding. The blank cheques of the past should be phased out because rapidly rising post-secondary costs are a major budget hotspot that is ripe for reform.

And especially not this:

Unions would be invited to bid (along with everyone else) for their old jobs — not at the lowest price, but with minimum government standards and value for money in mind.

Instead, we're going to get the same kind of toeing the line we've gotten from Dalton for the past 8 years. A few dollars here. A few dollars there. Barely enough to make a dent in the deficit that's been created.

Except- and this is the hilarious part- Dalton and company have done such a good job sweeping the problems under the carpet and telling Ontarians they've never had it so good that any sort of cuts, no matter how superficial, will provoke a tsunami of fury from Ontarians. Lord help them if they actually implement Drummond's suggestions to the fullest.

And the moment that happens, the PC Party of Ontario will have been given the moral authority to seize power in Ontario and to make the cuts that are necessary. Why? Because when the most respected economist in the province told Dalton to fix things or else, Dalton told him, "Eh....we'll get there eventually. No hurry."

And because Dalton will drag his feet when the most respected economist in the province tells him to fix things or else, and because Dalton's foot dragging will lead to things getting worse for everybody, it will very quickly become time for the PC Party of Ontario to re-attach their scrotums and start doing what Dalton won't do.

The Liberals will default to Walkerton and Ipperwash and Closing Hospitals And Schools and all that scary stuff. That's fine. Their inaction will lead to circumstances that are worse than Walkerton, Ipperwash, etc. etc. Maybe there'll be widespread strikes by unions who aren't satisfied that Dalton has abased himself sufficiently. Maybe doctors walking off the job. Maybe corporations packing up and leaving en masse, leaving scores of jobless Ontarians. And after that happens for a while, the mood will start shifting rapidly. It's happened before.

Dalton likes to say, "None of us is as strong as all of us."

I have one for him: "Either some of us suffer or all of us suffer."

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