Editorial Board 2000-2001
The budget blues
The budget blues
After Finance Minister Ernie Eves' budget announcement on May 2, the people of Ontario were expected to react with joy and praise.
The Conservative government, under Premier Mike Harris, has managed to balance Ontario's budget for the first time in 30 years. The Tories declared their intentions to put money back into sensitive issues such as education and health care and were still able to contribute money towards fighting Ontario's $114 billion debt.
But how much credit does the Harris government deserve for this budget surplus? And how much are they to thank for Ontario's soaring economy? The fact remains that the North American economy has seen an extensive boom over the last five years, generally remaining stable and strong throughout the continent.
The Tory government would have the public believe it was their slashing and cutting their fiscal responsibility which created this economic growth. However, the Ontario government would have received an economic surplus without the damage they inflicted on the social, health and educational systems of the province.
The irony is found in the fact that the government is simply giving back money it took from the people of Ontario in the first place. This is no gift-wrapped package; it is a budget simply meant to blind the government's critics.
For universities and colleges, there was good news in the budget, but also a lot of questions. The Tories have promised an additional $286 million will be pumped into the SuperBuild Growth Fund, which financially supports post-secondary institutions. However, most of this money will go into the development of infrastructure. New academic facilities will be needed in Ontario as institutions will look for ways to deal with rising enrollment and the double cohort in 2003.
What this budget does not address is where the finances will come for the operation of these new facilities. Universities and colleges are still increasingly strapped financially, as there is no money available for the hiring of staff and supplies to occupy these new facilities. A host of shiny new buildings is not going to address increasing enrollment if they are empty on the inside. Until operational costs are addressed, the province's renewed interest in post-secondary institutions seems rather pointless.
This budget should have been a cut and paste budget for dummies, yet flaws can still be found. Left with a massive surplus, the Tories still managed to leave gaping holes in the province's financial well-being. While a surplus seems to be highly commendable, any accolades are undermined by these fatal flaws. Ontarians might cheer for now, but the applause will soon turn to boos and hisses if this bungled budget is not corrected.