Ontario voted for budget cuts, but which ones?

Doug Ford defeated the Liberals to become Ontario’s Premier in a landslide victory, with a promise that he would deflate…

Siddak Ahuja Montreal QC

Doug Ford defeated the Liberals to become Ontario’s Premier in a landslide victory, with a promise that he would deflate the province’s ballooning debt. It all sounds logical, except, Ford’s cuts are making things more difficult for the most vulnerable.

The Liberal government had been in power from 2003 to 2018. According to the Ontario Finance Authority, the province’s debt aggrandized from $132.6 billion in 2003 to $348.8 billion in 2018. That’s an extra $216.2 billion dollars in debt or an average of $14.4 billion per annum.

In 2012, Moody’s downgraded Ontario’s credit rating from AA1 to AA2, citing “debt burden concerns.” In 2018, the agency further degraded Ontario’s outlook from “stable” to “negative.” Cuts were needed for a long time, and something had to be done.

Doug Ford of the Progressive Conservative Party managed to unseat the Liberals after 15 years of debt-fueled welfare spending. To say the cuts were going to be harsh would be an understatement. They were, however, necessary.

But really nobody expected Ford to cudgel the vulnerable as hard as he did. There are two key areas to note: autism, and legal assistance.

According to the Ontario Autism Coalition, Doug Ford’s changes for Ontario’s autism programs are expected to cost families up to $80,000 a year for intensive therapies. His means-tested program means that as a child ages, their allowance cap gets lower. So a two-year-old would get a maximum lifetime emolument of $140,000 while a five-year-old would get $55,000.

Ford received widespread criticism and his Social Services minister Lisa MacLeod received calls to resign. Ford was even booed at the Special Olympics hosted in Toronto.

Mental health is not something that should be put on a means-tested basis. It is outside the boundaries of what a person can do, and is mostly something a person is born with. No matter the cost, mental illness services for the needy should not be sacrificed for the sake of balancing the budget.

The second area where Ford has hit the pain’s bullseye is with legal aid. He slashed legal funding by more than a third, which came out to a whopping $133 million. With the system already underfunded, many impecunious persons can’t get adequate legal assistance.

Immigration legal services have also been curbed. This could adversely affect thousands of legal immigrants trying to settle and grow in the province.

With a flurry of resignations and a furor of firings darting Ford, it was clear that he was severely misguided in his aim of removing the province’s debt burden. While there are areas he has done well, his cuts have zapped the needy.

In the flurry of misinformation coming from all ends of the political spectrum, two facts cannot be dismissed. One: Ontario’s ballooning debt requires Ford’s cuts; and two: Ford’s cuts are hurting the most vulnerable, right where it hurts.

Ford needs to reevaluate his modus operandi, and take a more “humane” approach to his cuts if he wishes to be cheered, to see a rise in his unpropitious approval ratings, and to try and maintain his hold of this province until the next election cycle.


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