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Toronto - Ontario - Canada
McGuinty Needs a Little Help 2
15/01/2004

My last posting -- about how Dalton McGuinty has taken a wrong turn on photo radar -- has already generated some email. A Liberal voter wrote to me about that article and told me he was fed up because "the extent of the backtracking, of the broken promises, is unprecedented". And, "Next time it will be anything but McGuinty".

Now, this is just one guy, but I'm sure he's far from being the only one.

I still support the Ontario Liberals, and I'll tell you why below. I also think they need to act fast, because people are getting pissed off.

I support the Liberals because I believe that they are governing better than any of the other parties that contested the October election would have. I also support the Liberals because I believe what's happening now is not because they campaigned on the basis of whatever crazy promises they had to make to get elected, but because the state of the province is actually much worse than anyone knew a few months ago. Perhaps in believing this, I am being naive. But, time will tell.

Now, if I'm right and the current government is suffering because of the size of mess left by the Tories, they don't seem to be doing a very good job of communicating this message.

The way I see it, the Harris-Eves government left us with a triple deficit. First, there's the budget deficit that we've all heard about. Second, there is the capital deficit that represents all the crumbling infrastructure across the province, ranging from transit and highways to power generation and distribution. Finally, there is the service deficit that we suffer in areas like education, food and water inspection, etc. There are signs that each of these deficits is bigger than I would have guessed last fall.

McGuinty faces a very formidable task. Not only does he have to close the gap between expenses and taxes, but he must also close the other two gaps by investing in infrastructure and increasing spending on education, health, and many other services.

The problem is, McGuinty also faces a credibility gap. I don't think he has convinced enough people that "Before the election, Ontario was in much worse shape than anybody realized". If people really accepted this, there would be no wondering if maybe we'd be better off with Ernie in charge. Unfortunately, the way Dalton has played his cards in the past three months has bred cynicism rather than acceptance. Instead of pinning shame on the Tories for their mismangement, they have allowed themselves to get painted as "Fiberals". They've been out-spun.

And that's why this photo radar talk is so mistaken. It's wrong to enforce laws just for the sake of the money it raises. Doing so will encourage a very, very cynical reaction.


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