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Index for my Toronto Budget 2004 project
Fiberal Spin
27/11/2003

Dalton McGuinty is taking some heat for the difficulty that he has had keeping some of the promises that were made during the election campaign. The front page of yesterday's Toronto Sun read "Fiberals!" and the National Post also had a front page commentary by Terence Corcoran. James Bow wrote about being disappointed last week and Pogge is saying the honeymoon is over.

Here's the quick summary (from the Star) on what's happened so far:

Since being sworn in on Oct. 23, McGuinty has climbed down from a number of election pledges, including lifting the cap on retail electricity rates, allowing massive development on the Oak Ridges Moraine and embracing private-public partnership, or so-called P3, hospitals.

"We're doing what needs to be done and we're living up to our commitments," the Premier said, pointing to promises kept on reforming auto insurance, holding a public inquiry into the 1995 Ipperwash police slaying of native protester Dudley George and cancelling Conservative tax breaks.

By and large, the Liberals blame their broken promises on the projected $5.6 billion deficit left behind by the Conservatives, who dispute that figure and say there could be a $3.9 billion surplus.

I've been pretty busy this week with other things, so I'm a bit behind the times. Nevertheless, here are some thoughts...

As far as I can tell, the biggest broken promises involve not balancing the budget, lifting the cap on the price of electricity, and allowing development on the Oak Ridges Moraine.

I can't believe that there is a reasonable person that blames McGuinty for the inherited budget deficit. Ernie Eves can make all the claims that he wants about how he would actually have produced a big surplus, we just don't believe him. Nothing in Eves' fiscal plan gave us any sense of how this deficit could have been avoided.

I've already written that I'm glad they have lifted the cap on hydro rates. In fact, I wish they'd go farther to make the price of electricity reflect the cost of electricity.

As for the Oak Ridges Moraine, I must say that I am disappointed. Yes, we're facing tough times, and yes, the deals would have been expensive to get out of, but environmental damage of this sort is forever. I wish that McGuinty would have made this work. On the other hand, it is exactly on this issue that this whole broken promises issue becomes more clear.

You see, the Liberals' opponents can cry all they want about how the Liberals have broken promises. What's clear, however, is that whatever we see happening now would have been worse with the PCs in power. Yes, there will be development on the moraine. There would have been more if Eves had been reelected.

And, in the future, which party can we trust to deal better with similar issues? The one that tried to stop development on the moraine, or the one that signed a secret deal to allow development after they promised us they were stepping in to prevent it?

The bottom line is that I'm not entirely thrilled with how these Liberals have been performing, but I am not experiencing buyer's remorse, either. I'm confident that none of the other options would have been better. Dalton McGuinty is governing this province closer to the way I would like than Ernie Eves would have, and I think that as the Tory hangover wears off, he will continue to improve.

As such, I will judge this government based on the coming years and not so much this first few months.


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