Friday, October 07, 2005

McGuinty Condemns Surplus Allocation Concept he Ran on in 1999

The Toronto Star reports today that Premiers Dalton McGuinty and Jean Charest are peeved that the Martin government is planning to introduce surplus allocation legislation under which “the federal government would divvy up future surpluses by spending one-third of them on reducing the $499 billion debt, one-third on tax relief and one-third on new government spending.”

The Star quotes McGuinty: “I think it’s bad public policy to paint yourself into that corner and to give up any flexibility that you might need in this world where the only constant appears to be change,” the Ontario premier said. “The other reason I’m not supportive of that policy is because it does not address our $23-billion gap in Ontario.”

Yet in his platform for the 1999 provincial election, McGuinty pledged a rather similar surplus allocation formula:

once the budget is balanced, the fiscal dividend would be split three ways:

· 55 per cent for our priorities, primarily health care and education;
· 25 per cent in tax relief aimed at lower and middle-income Ontarians, to help them start to catch up;
· 20 per cent for debt reduction and a rainy day fund, to ensure health care and education are protected in good times and bad.
--20/20 Plan – A Clear Vision for Ontario’s Future, p. 14

As for the $23-billion gap, my empathy for McGuinty is somewhat dimmed by the fact that in opposition, Mike Harris repeatedly asked McGuinty to stand up for Ontario in demanding back the health dollars Paul Martin had cut. McGuinty usually didn’t.

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