Ted Arnott, MPP
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 7, 2015
MPP Arnott responds to budget motion
(Queen’s Park) – Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott responded to the Liberal
Government’s 2015-16 budget on May 5 with a speech in the Ontario Legislature. Mr. Arnott
gave his speech while the Legislature was debating the budget motion, which states: That this
House approves in general the Budgetary Policy of the Government.
During debate on the budget motion, MPPs are allowed to speak for up to 20 minutes.
Mr. Arnott explained why he goes not have confidence in the Liberal Government, and also
once again highlighted a number of local infrastructure priorities in Wellington-Halton Hills.
The following is the text of Mr. Arnott’s remarks, taken from Hansard, the official record of the
Mr. Ted Arnott: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. First of all, I have to apologize to you
because I broke the door trying to get into the chamber so that I could take my place in the
House. There’s a hinge that came out of the door; it’s going to have to be replaced. I know our
staff were a little nervous that I wasn’t in the chamber at the time of the prayers, and I apologize
for that, too.
At the same time, I’m very pleased to have this opportunity to debate the budget motion that
was tabled in this House shortly after the presentation of the budget. We, of course, have a nice
blue copy-sorry, it’s red-a red copy of the provincial budget. Building Ontario Up is what the
government calls it. It was presented in the House a few days ago, as we know.
I want to begin my remarks by acknowledging an important day in the country of Holland. Today
is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Holland. As we know, Mr. Speaker, it was in part due
to the sacrifice, the courage and the dedication of Canadian soldiers, who were primarily
responsible for the liberation of Holland and bringing to an end the tyranny of the Nazi regime in
that country during World War II. Many Canadian soldiers, believe it or not, are able to be in
Holland today to mark that 70th anniversary. It may be the last time that the greatest generation
will be able to be present in Holland for this commemoration. We’re thinking of the Dutch people
today and also the extraordinary contribution that our Dutch-Canadians have made, because
there was a huge wave of immigration to Canada after the First World War of people from
Holland. They have made an immeasurable contribution to the country and to the province of
Ontario, so we remember them today.
I want to begin by clarifying something that seems to be a bit misunderstood around here, even
in the Legislature, perhaps in the media and perhaps amongst some in the general public. We
are debating the budget motion right now. This is the motion that is tabled after the provincial
budget, and it’s very straightforward and simple. It’s one line, really. Proposed by the
government, it’s suggesting that the House has confidence, in general, in the budgetary policy of
We in opposition do not have confidence, in general, in the budgetary policy of the government.
So it would be logical-and I know you would agree, Mr. Speaker-if we don’t have confidence in
the budgetary policy of the government, that we would vote against the budget motion. This is
something that was somewhat distorted by Liberal strategists during the minority Parliament
back in 2011. You’ll recall, Mr. Speaker, that in fact the Liberal Party paid for robocalls in the
ridings of Burlington and Cambridge, seats that we held with our members Jane McKenna and
Rob Leone, who had been newly elected in 2011. Robocalls were paid for by the Liberal Party
into those ridings, telling the people of those ridings that if their Conservative members, Rob
Leone and Jane McKenna, voted against the budget motion, they were therefore voting against
their hospital projects. That is a false statement, and the Liberal strategists should have known
that. I believe they did know that, and yet those robocalls were made.
In my riding, there were Liberals who wrote letters to the editor-yes, that’s exactly correct. In my
riding, there were letters to the editor sent by Liberals suggesting that if I voted against the
budget motion in 2011-after the provincial election, when we were in the minority period-I was
voting against my hospital projects. Again, absolutely a false statement. What we are voting on
is the budgetary policy of the government in general.
The fact is that of course the New Democrats, during the minority period, negotiated with the
government, and certain things were included in the budget. For a two-year period they were
prepared to, if not support the budget, at least abstain to allow the budget to pass, to prevent an
election. But I would caution those members of the House-and I know there are many Liberals
here who are interested in this; we all have a conscience-that it is completely false to suggest
that any member is voting against a project in their riding if they vote against the budget motion
and the budgetary policy of the government.
Indeed, when the Liberal Party was in opposition, when our party was in government between
1995 and 2003, in every single case the Liberal caucus voted against the budget motion. There
was no question about it. And it’s logical that they did, Mr. Speaker, because in those days, they
did not support the budgetary policy of the Progressive Conservative government.
I wanted to get that off my chest because it has bothered me for some time. I hope that the
government members will contemplate it, and I hope that the Liberal strategists who authored
that approach of doing robocalls into Conservative ridings don’t ever try that again.
I want to mention the key numbers that are in this budget and compare them to last year’s. The
provincial deficit for 2015-16 is $8.5 billion. This, in fact, is actually down from last year; there
was a $10.9-billion deficit last year. But you’ll recall in the budget last year that they actually
projected a $12.5-billion deficit and, in turn, before the budget, acknowledged that they’d come
in under that projection, at $10.9 billion.
There’s really little explanation for the difference, other than that the government patted itself on
the back and said that they’d done a good job of managing the expenditures and that was what
accounted for the difference.
In fact, we sometimes wonder if the government uses assumptions that create a higher deficit
number than is really what they expect, and when they come in under that number they take
credit for their good management as a way of distracting and diverting attention away from the
fact that it is still a very sizable number.
Nevertheless, the government continues to claim and to submit to the people of Ontario that
they plan to balance the budget by 2017-18. They are committed to doing this. We’ve been
saying for the last two or three years now, as the deficit has actually gone up year over year,
that it’s pretty hard to believe they’re going to be able to balance that budget. I will acknowledge
that it is true that this year the deficit has in fact come down, and if the deficit continues to come
down-say, $2 billion to $3 billion a year, or $4 billion a year-we get closer, of course, to that goal
of a balanced budget. But I still would question the government’s commitment: when the tough
decisions have to be made in the next three years, whether or not they’ll be prepared to make
them to actually achieve that goal of a balanced budget.
Of great concern, though, is the projected provincial net debt number, which continues to go up
dramatically. This year, in the provincial budget: $298.9 billion-almost $299 billion; this is up
from $284.2 billion last year-gone up $14.7 billion. The debt has gone up $14.7 billion year over
year. That means it has increased-simple math-over a billion dollars a month. The debt has
gone up over this past year.
Provincial government spending this year is projected to be $131.9 billion. That’s $132 billion,
rounded off. That is up from $129.5 billion last year-a $2.4-billion increase year over year.
Again, the government would have us believe they’re holding the line on spending and being
successful in that regard. In fact, their spending is going up $2.4 billion more than last year,
according to their own numbers in the provincial budget.
Another serious concern is the net debt per capita. That, of course, is the amount, in effect, that
each of us owes because of years of provincial government overspending. Every man, woman
and child in the province of Ontario, in effect, owes this sum of money because of years and
years and years of provincial government overspending-spending beyond its means in a given
year. The net debt per capita this year is now at $21,642; last year, it was $20,772. That means
the net debt per capita has gone up $870 just in the last year. Again, that’s something that
should concern us all if we care about the next generation, our children and our grandchildren. I
certainly do, and I know most of us do, but unfortunately, in this budget process, it seems that
that concern has been repeatedly overlooked, going back to 2003.
Another important indicator of the crushing level of debt that the province of Ontario is carrying
is the debt-to-GDP ratio. That takes the total debt and compares it to the value of the goods and
services that we produce in the province of Ontario. That’s what the gross domestic product is:
the total value of what we produce in terms of goods and services in the province of Ontario.
That’s an important indicator because it allows us to look at how we can serve the debt. It’s our
capacity to service the debt and pay down the debt, pay the interest payments, and hopefully
someday get to the point of paying down the principal. That debt-to-GDP ratio now stands at
39.8%, up again from last year. It was 39.4% last year, so almost half a percentage point
increase. Just to compare-again, this is getting close to 40%: Before the recession in 2008-09,
that number was 26.2%. So that number has gone up dramatically as well. Again, it underscores
the punishing level of debt that has been incurred in recent years.
Of course, what does that mean to people? Well, we have to service the debt; we have to make
interest payments on the debt. If the provincial government is going to remain solvent and meet
its obligations, its debt service payments come first. If we stop paying our debt interest, of
course, we would not be able to borrow money at all and we would be in a financial crisis in the
province of Ontario.
That becomes, basically-the first call in the government’s finances is to pay the interest on the
debt. That number, not surprisingly, continues to grow dramatically. In fact, it is now the third-
largest item in the provincial budget after health and education. It’s also, in recent years, the
fastest-growing item in the provincial budget-something that I pointed out in question period a
couple of years ago. It’s now well understood that it is the fastest-growing item in the budget. It’s
expected and projected to go up 5.7% per year, on average, for the foreseeable future. That’s a
number, again, that is taken from the budget papers. I know there are some skeptics. It’s on
page 281 of the budget papers. It shows that the interest on the debt is expected to grow by
5.7% for the foreseeable future as far out as 2017-18. That’s as far as the graph shows.
At the same time, the government would lead us to believe that they’re constraining costs in so
many other areas. In fact, they are constraining health care costs, and they’ve seen a
substantial increase in transfers from the federal government to the provincial government for
Again, I’ll refer to the budget papers document, where we see that the Canada Health Transfer-
$12.4 billion last year-has gone up to over $13 billion this year. At the same time, the provincial
government’s expenditures on health have gone up less than that. By my math, the provincial
expenditures on health care are only going up $598 million this year, while at the same time the
federal government is increasing the transfers for health by $652 million. The federal
government is giving us more for health, and the provincial government isn’t even spending that
increase on health. In effect, given the fact that the interest costs are going up dramatically, it’s
pretty logical to conclude that the money that is earmarked for health care-that the federal
government is intending to give us for health care-is in fact being spent to service the debt.
That’s how bad it has gotten under this government.
People need to understand. These are all big numbers and it’s difficult to understand them, but
we have to educate ourselves in terms of financial literacy. If we don’t-if all the members in this
House don’t understand the budgetary numbers-obviously, we’ve got a more serious problem,
perhaps, than any of us realize.
Again, the interest payments on the debt this year are projected to be $11.4 billion. That’s up
from $10.7 billion last year-again, the fastest-growing item in the budget.
Mr. Speaker, I don’t have very much time. I look at the clock and I realize the time has gone
very quickly for me. But I also wanted to point out some of the economic policies that have been
advocated by my colleague the member for Whitby-Oshawa, who of course is seeking the
leadership of our Ontario provincial PC Party. I support her leadership bid, and I believe she is
the most qualified person to be the next leader of our party and to be the Premier of Ontario.
For me, it’s not all about winning elections. It’s actually all about good government. I realize that
we have to win elections in order to form government. I realize that winning is obviously the
objective of an election campaign, and during an election campaign we work all-out towards that
objective. But when the election is over, it’s over, and we all have a job to do.
I think it’s also true that, for the people who are involved in politics in my riding-in all parties-
winning is important, but it’s winning as a means to an end. Winning isn’t the end in itself.
Winning is the means to an end, with the end, of course, being good government. I would add
that comment to this debate too, and ask members to consider that.
Christine Elliott, in her speech at this Legislature-actually, in the wintertime-gave a very
compelling plan to strengthen Ontario’s economy and encourage the creation of the new jobs
that we need.
She said that first of all, we must do a better job of building a competitive business climate to
stimulate job-creating investment. She suggested that by making regulatory reform an
immediate priority in the first 100 days of a government led by her, by taking steps to simplify
the tax code, and by reducing business taxes, we would be sending a very powerful message to
Ontario job creators that we are open for business once again. Of course, Mr. Speaker, that is
very important for business confidence.
We have to acknowledge that provincial government initiatives are only one element of creating
or deflating business confidence. There are other factors at play, some of which we can’t
control. But the fact is we do have an opportunity to encourage business confidence with the
policies that come out of this place. Obviously, from our perspective, we would suggest that the
provincial government hasn’t been doing that for the last 13 years, and we need to do better.
Christine Elliott has advocated policies that would, in fact, create that strong sense of business
confidence in terms of the support from the provincial Legislature and the government and,
hopefully, that would stimulate the creation of many thousands of jobs in the province of Ontario.
Secondly, she talked about a renewed focus on skills training and the need to reform the
apprenticeship system. She said that that would pay immediate dividends in the form of job
creation. I think she’s absolutely right about that and should be commended for that suggestion.
She said that young people and employers need incentives to pursue the existing job
opportunities in today’s economy. I agree with that, without qualification. Certainly, we have a
very high youth unemployment rate in the province of Ontario. I think it’s about double the
overall rate, and that should be of concern of all of us. We need to do better on that particular
public policy challenge.
She also suggested that we need to open up student loans to apprentices, ensuring that more
young people would pursue careers in good-paying, skilled trades.
She also advocated a new approach to supporting creative innovation and entrepreneurship in
our economy. She suggested that by issuing a competitive challenge, rewarding excellence in
achievement, speeding up the work of the Ontario Securities Commission and creating an
advanced manufacturing fund to support research and development, this would help us to lead
the world in innovation-again, all laudable goals that I support and that many in my community
support as well.
She also outlined her vision for strengthening our economy in the long term, including new ideas
to pay for the new infrastructure that we need. She committed to bringing stability to our hydro
rates, which have skyrocketed in recent years, which in turn has contributed to the loss of some
300,000 manufacturing jobs in the province of Ontario.
I’m privileged to serve as our party’s critic to the Minister of Economic Development,
Infrastructure and Employment. I certainly endorse the member for Whitby-Oshawa, Christine
Elliott’s, economic plan and believe that it is obviously a plan that would take us in the right
direction in the province of Ontario.
I would also add in the brief time that I have left that we have a significant number of
infrastructure projects in our riding. I’ve advocated for my riding, as you know, Mr. Speaker, on a
long list of infrastructure projects. The fact is that the provincial government plans and certainly
budgets to spend a significant amount of money on infrastructure. Again, page 291 of the
budget papers shows that they intend to spend $13.5 billion this year on infrastructure projects. I
know they’re going to spend that money; they plan to spend it, they committed, they talk about it
all the time, and the Premier is tweeting constantly about the infrastructure plans they have.
They are going to spend that money, so I am saying that in Wellington-Halton Hills, we have our
infrastructure challenges, we have our needs and we need our fair share of that money.
I again submit to the government the need for the Highway 6 Morriston bypass through Puslinch
township, south of the 401 on the way to Hamilton. The Premier has acknowledged that that
project is needed in this Legislature, and we ask that the Minister of Transportation-something
I’ve been advocating for many years now-place that project on the five-year plan for new
construction, which we know as the southern highways program. I know that the minister, after
the tabling of the budget, goes through a process of reviewing the various project ideas that
exist. His staff know about the need; I’m sure his staff will fill him in on any additional information
he needs, but there’s a strong business coalition that has come together in support of this
project, including all of the local councils, chambers of commerce and so forth. We need to see
that project done.
We need a new courthouse in Halton. We need a new Holy Cross Catholic school in
Georgetown. I’ve supported GO Transit improvements for my riding going back to 2008. We
need high-speed Internet service in rural Ontario. We need support for the town of Erin waste
water management system, something that needs to be addressed very soon.
I realize I’m now out of time. I’ve got a long list of other projects I’d like to talk about, and I will at
Mr. Speaker, I do not support the general budgetary policy of this government and I’ll be voting
against this motion.
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