The 2012 Ontario budget was tabled yesterday by Dwight Duncan and it's an unsurprisingly harsh response to the deficit left in the wake of the financial crisis. This budget sets a nasty (and brutish) tone going forward for the province with threats of legislated wage freezes, changes to interest arbitration, a B.C. style approach to labour relations, changes to pension funding, attacks on the poor through cuts to social assistance, and the general cry of "fiscal austerity". Really this budget sets out to continue the work of Mike Harris right where he left off.
Make no mistake about it - this crisis wasn't created by public sector spending, rather private sector greed drove the financial markets to collapse and governments had to respond. The public is now paying the price through a reconsolidation of neoliberal public policy responses sold as "necessary" measures to overcome our fiscal problems. It's a bunch of baloney really and the same old divisive politics that have characterized Ontario's politics for the better part of my lifetime that have allowed our moral compass to spin wildly off kilter. This isn't leadership, rather it's the absence of it and as we're about to find out it's going to cost most of us dearly as the public services we rely upon are slashed.
This isn't an economic growth or a jobs budget, this is budget that may well push Ontario's economy back into recession and put ten of thousands citizens out of work and onto the welfare rolls. Don't believe me? Then I ask, where is the innovative programs to put the unemployed to work? Or the training initiatives to turn Ontario into a leader in the knowledge economy? Or the strength of character to confront an exceedingly unfair national monetary policy and petrodollar that's destroying the industrial and manufacturing heartland of Ontario? It's not there, it's lacking, and that needs to change fast if we hope to see any semblance of a sustained recovery.
The impact that this budget will have on youth will be particularly dire. For the majority of students tuition and debt are skyrocketing as the 30% rebate only covers a small fraction of students. In a bizarre move high school students are going to get the boot after 34 credits and by doing so this will deny many students the ability to upgrade their marks to gain entry into post-secondary institutions. There was also an utter lack of ameliorative interventions to boost job creation amid a stagnating labour market that's hitting young Ontarions in their 20s and 30s rather hard. If one drills into the Statscan numbers for the cohorts between 15 and 34 you'll find declining full-time employment, people dropping out of the labour force entirely, and a rise in precarious part-time jobs. I've said it before and I'll say it again - it's a very bad time to be young (and have dreams) in Ontario.
Below I've culled various commentaries (even the erroneous ones) on the 2012 Ontario budget - give them a read, get informed, and then make a decision about whether Ontario is headed in the right direction. See:
Well, that's my recap of the whole 2012 Ontario budget mess. There's not much of a silver lining so in closing I'll leave you with the heartfelt tale of how austerity impacts on one average Canadian. See Carla Lucchetta's video essay from The Agenda below: