The recently released Drummond Commission Report gave us another indication that a policy of austerity will be forced upon the working and middle class people of Ontario in the upcoming provincial budget. If the recommended cutbacks are implemented, they will coincide with the devastating austerity measures that the Harper government is planning for this year's federal budget.
The Drummond Report calls for sweeping cuts to education, health care, and various social programs but does little to address the job creation that is so desperately needed to aid in the economic recovery of Ontario and the country as a whole.
By now there is universal acknowledgement that federal and provincial debt is a serious problem, but the Drummond Report does not explain how we can pay down our debt and deficit while raising adequate revenue so that the province can grow and continue to deliver the public services that Ontarians cherish.
Citizens and governments should be asking themselves why severe policies of austerity are necessary. Are austerity programs working in other parts of the world? If one looks at Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and several American states, are austerity programs working in those jurisdictions? Have they helped bring about economic recoveries? Since the answer is no, why would we follow the same path?
There is another way forward. Revenue growth and job creation must comprise any deficit reduction strategy. Drastic cuts to public sector jobs will increase rather than reduce the deficit because the terminated workers will pay less taxes, add to our already abysmal unemployment rate, and place further demands on the province's social safety net. Governments must also look at alternative ways of reducing the debt. Rather than legislating reductions to public services, it would be helpful to reform the current tax system. Instead of allocating huge tax cuts to banks and corporations at the expense of working people, governments should increase the corporate tax rate to raise additional revenue, pay down the deficit, fund a job stimulus package, and help preserve our valuable public services.
Before implementing the recommendations of the Drummond Report, the Ontario government should look at jurisdictions that have pursued dangerous austerity measures and ask itself whether our province should follow the path of these indebted countries, states, and municipalities. The politics of austerity threatens the interests of Ontarians and a better, alternative approach is possible.