Walker and Bethlenfalvy: An open response to Steven Del Duca’s column

Walker and Bethlenfalvy: An open response to Steven Del Duca’s column

Last week, Steven Del Duca’s opinion piece caught many Ontarians by surprise. Mr. Del Duca served in the former cabinet of Kathleen Wynne, and during that time he had many opportunities to achieve real change for the people of Ontario. Instead, he squandered that opportunity. It was the inaction of his previous Liberal government that left the province with an ineffective procurement process and a $15 billion deficit.

Our government is taking a different approach. Our primary responsibility is to ensure that the people of Ontario have the necessary resources to prosper and thrive. This begins with procurement reform and applying services on a digital basis to make the customer experience better at a lower price point. To be a successful, modern government, we must transform government programs and services in a way that always put the citizen at the centre of what we do.

Upon election, Premier Doug Ford took immediate action to reveal the previous government’s financial inaccuracies, waste and mismanagement. We acted with both courage and competence when we commissioned EY Canada to spearhead a line-by-line review of all public programs as a first step towards restoring trust and accountability in government.

Additionally, the Independent Financial Commission of Inquiry and Auditor General’s Annual Report combined with the review revealed two things. First, that the previous government’s accounting techniques did not tell the whole story, resulting in Ontarians casting doubt and mistrust in government. And second, the results forced us to be bold enough to share the sobering number with them — a debt of $348 billion, the highest accumulated subnational debt of any jurisdiction in the world. We are now working hard to tackle the fiscal burden we’ve inherited in a thoughtful, transformative, and strategic way.

In his opinion piece, Mr. Del Duca confirmed that our government’s pursuit of fiscal sustainability is critical. He shared that “a balanced budget provides us with the freedom to invest in those things that matter most — top-notch hospitals and world-leading schools, for example — without leaving behind ongoing deficits to our children and grandchildren”. That is why, in the 2018 Fall Economic Statement, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli outlined the important investments in core programs and services Ontarians rely on. We have already saved $3.2 billion in program expenses, while maintaining front-line services and helping taxpayers keep more of their hard-earned money by:

  • Reducing college and university fees by 10 per cent. Students will see a savings of, on average, $340 depending on the program. By lowering tuition across the entire province, our Government is ensuring all qualified Ontario students will have more access to high-quality skills training and education;
  • Eliminating the cap and trade carbon tax, reducing gas prices and saving families across Ontario approximately $260 per year;
  • Taking urgent action to expand access to long-term care by supporting more than 6,000 new long-term care beds across the province, the first wave of more than 15,000 new long-term care beds across Ontario in the next five years;
  • Making a historic investment of $1.9 billion in mental health and addictions services, matching the federal government’s commitment; and
  • Introducing the Low-income Individuals and Families Tax Credit, one of the most generous Ontario tax cuts for low-income workers in a generation. The credit will benefit one in six Ontario taxpayers, and on average, provide $450 in tax relief.

These are just a few of the many initiatives we’ve accomplished in eight months that will grow our economy and chart a path to balance. Lastly, the author correctly notes, “how a government balances the books tells you a lot about who and what it values.” On June 7, Ontario elected a landslide majority, and for good reason. The people of Ontario voted for real change. Understandably, they want to know what their hard-earned taxpayer dollars are going towards.

It takes courage and competence to spend public money responsibly, and Premier Ford’s actions since taking office demonstrates his values and character.

Mr. Del Duca may have been comfortable with the status quo on procurement during his time in government, but we are not.

Our government is young, energized, and we are committed to creating a modern, centralized procurement process that will help us be more effective and efficient in how we buy products and services for the people of Ontario. The debt we inherited will not hinder our ability to do this.

We are resolute in our determination to turn our province around by not spending recklessly like the previous government. We will lower the debt and continue to put those savings into services and programs people need and deserve instead of into interest payments.

We are taking a different approach to fiscal management, job creation, and we are transforming the way we deliver core services to the people who need them the most.

This guest column is by Minister of Government and Consumer Services Bill Walker and Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy. It was written in response to a guest column written by former Liberal minister Steven Del Duca, published by QP Briefing on Jan.16, 2019.

Peter Bethlenfalvy & Bill Walker

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