The Ontario Liberal budget has gone too far—or perhaps not far enough

The Easter Bunny had barely loaded the chocolate eggs and jelly beans in its gaily coloured basket when the Ontario Liberals stole into the end of March with a frenzy of largesse fit to make a bunny blush—leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind that election season is well and thoroughly upon us.

If the coming campaign goal was to provide a clear and stark choice to the electorate come this June 7, Premier Kathleen Wynne and her crew have crafted a document worthy of a Pulitzer Prize (or maybe a Booker, as the former is restricted to Americans only)—but the question is, is this document a work of fiction or a working map leading toward a brighter happier future?

After a decade and a half of being the proverbial Grinch who stole health care (education and social services), according to the NDP, or the very image of a hedonistic grasshopper with its hands in the pockets of every hardworking taxpayer ant, according to the Tories—pick your perspective—the Liberals certainly have a lot of fences to mend. It seems they have made the determination  the bulk of that re-construction effort should take place on the left hand side of the divide.

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A surprising number of social service groups, public service unions and other leftie-types have damned the Liberal budget with faint praise. Yes, they say in their (sort-of) congratulatory releases following the budget announcement, it is great that there are more resources coming to help the poor, the disadvantaged, the downtrodden, but in the next breath they declare that it is clearly not nearly enough—a vote buying sop on all our houses.

Passing the dutchie onto the right hand side, we discover that the proliferate Liberals are picking the pockets of hard-working families with more tax increases (those making more than $95,000 a year and struggling to meet their hydro bills, despite the recent 25 percent reduction in energy prices apparently) and stuffing those ill-gotten gains into the pockets of the undeserving poor, working and otherwise. Mortgaging future generations into an indentured servitude far into the foreseeable future.

No wonder Premier Wynne is so unpopular, she is apparently managing to stick it to everyone all at the same time—all in a nefarious plot to get her and her cronies re-elected—and, according to recent polls, we are (somewhat) starting to fall for it.

What’s a poor rabbit to do? Wolves to the left of us, bozos to the right— we are left (or right) hopping from foot to foot, stuck in the middle of the bunny trail.

The Liberals have somehow managed to appear as a relatively centrist choice, thanks largely to their opponents. The NDP tell us the Liberals are cutting and slashing their way through our social safety net and the Tories tell us the Liberals are trying to bribe us with our own money by writing unrealistically large cheques that will (inevitably) lead to the same result.

Of course, as is often the case in politics, both sides are right and wrong at the same time. Sucking and blowing is a tried and true (although these days also largely tired) political skill. The result is quite likely to be that the electorate will choose to go with the devil they know. Especially since the other two unknown hands seem to be dealing in just as much legerdemain (if not even more) as the familiar face the electorate has, for some as yet undefined reasons, come to love to hate.

If the NDP and the Progressive Conservatives manage to lose this coming election they will have only themselves to blame (well, perhaps some crafty back room Liberal types too). Because, unless something changes in the next few months and they start bringing credible and sound policy initiatives to the table, instead of resorting to outlandish and unsubstantiated claims that stretch credulity beyond those already challenged boundaries set by the governing Liberals, the Liberals will remain the best direction to jump.

It is in everyone’s best interests to change governments occasionally in a democracy, but it behooves the alternatives to remain somewhere in the general vicinity of reality. Otherwise, they will continue to keep the cottontails and other purveyors of fairy tales company in the opposition benches—and right now that looks to be in all of our best interests.

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