Ernie Eves might be right about one thing. The unconstitutional budget presentation came and went today, and the world continues to revolve around its axis. The Liberals and the NDP got their underwear in a knot, and the editorialists looked on in contempt, but the average Ontarian shrugged, added it to their list of reasons not to vote Conservative, and moved on. At worst, Eves got two weeks of bad publicity, and perhaps nothing more.
The worst thing for Eves, though, is that this was such a non-event non-budget that not many people took much notice at all. All of the news reports focused on the unconventional presentation of the budget, and didn't focus on what is a rather uninspired package, even as Harris Conservative budgets go. There was a little money added to fix the problems Conservative underfunding caused in the first place, and most of the tax cuts that was supposed to buy back the vascillating Conservative voter turned out to be reinstated tax cuts that were imposed two years ago, but delayed due to fiscal concerns. In short, tired and unambitious; not much to take to the voters.
I heard recaps on CBC Radio, and parts of it had me rolling my eyes. Janet Ecker was going on unconvincingly about "tax relief", saying how it was "proven" that it had created one million Ontario jobs since 1995. Janet Ecker is clearly not a scientist or a lawyer and has no clue about burdens of proof. For the average Ontarian, the Conservatives tax cuts amounted to little more than $10 per paycheque. In many cases, it was more than eaten up by the property tax increases and degraded services caused by these very same tax cuts.
I think most everyone knows that Ontario owed more of its one million jobs to a roaring late 90s U.S. and high-tech economy than it did to tax cuts. The tax cuts themselves threatened the very things which made Ontario a good place to invest (a highly educated workforce, strong infrastructure, cheap power and a high quality of life). And I think more and more people are making the connection between Bush's trillion dollar tax cuts, and the harsh U.S. recession that FOLLOWED them. So, has it been proven that tax cuts create jobs? Only if your burden of proof is simply not hearing counter-evidence, and then spending the next eight years with your fingers in your ears shouting "LALALALALA!!! I can't hear you! LALALALALA!!!"
One good thing: this year's budget was balanced. No more added debt to burden the provincial economy, and $5 billion extra to pay down our debt. I'm coming to the conclusion that a balanced budget or surplus does more to invigorate an economy than tax cuts or spending increases. How else is Canada managing to stay out of the United States' recession?
There appears to have been no measures for transit in this budget. Certainly no diversion of the gas tax, and no announcement of new spending. Once again, the easy step of making transit passes tax deductible was not taken. But I'm less concerned, here, as I was about the Federal government's neglect of our cities. The province has already spent new money on transit, what with the recently announced $1.2 billion investment in :GO Transit:.
I realize that this is an announcement of a commitment already taken. Over a year ago, if you recall, the province of Ontario agreed to take back control of :GO Transit: (after giving it up in 1996) and funding its $1 Billion 10-year capital plan. None of that $1 billion showed up... until now. It's not the first time this government gets two photo-ops for the price of one, but I'll let it go in exchange for all day train service to Brampton, additional train service to Markham, Richmond Hill and Hamilton and (finally!) a handful of GO trains to Cambridge.
And kudos to the provincial government for getting the Feds to step in with $500 million of their own money. I'm sure that has the provincial Liberals gnashing their teeth at their federal cousins making their provincial enemies look good but, again, I don't care. As long as transit gets its money. Now, if only someone would commit to completing the Sheppard subway...