If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Liberals plan to enter the June provincial election contest as the party that “cares” about you. Really, really cares.
The Liberals care so much that they’ll put “significant” new money into Ontario hospitals to reduce wait times. They care so much they’ll direct more cash into home care, mental health and addictions, and more to defraying the costs of child care. They care so much they are going to expand the pharmacare program that now covers approved drugs for people under 25, and they will offer additional support for dental care. They will broaden free tuition assistance too.
In fact, they care so much that the word “care” pops up 35 times in the throne speech Lt-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell delivered Monday to open the new session of the legislature. A speech entitled "A Time for Care and Opportunity."
Naturally, all that caring will require “historic investments.” So they’re willing to go back into deficit with the coming budget – a “modest” deficit to be sure, less than one per cent of Ontario’s GDP. At some future time, the province will scramble back into balance, but for now, “when we care for each other, we can change lives,” the Liberals remind us. Hugs, then.
Wynne means to pull out the stops to show her compassion for our most vulnerable: children, those battling mental illness, seniors. She means to both steal the thunder of NDP leader Andrea Horwath on the left, and crisply differentiate herself from Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives on the right.
In doing so, she has the advantage of sincerity, at least. Wynne comes across in person as warm and caring; the promises she will now campaign on complement her personality. But experienced, competent government must be about more than good intentions and heartfelt pledges.
The problem remains. The Liberal party believes there is no problem – particularly no social problem – that cannot be solved by government minders with tax money and a deeper dip into deficit. If all that it took to mend the complex problems faced by vulnerable Ontarians was more cash, governments would have piled it on much earlier than now. Wynne has very little time to show how her “record breaking” investments will, for instance, truly reduce wait times, or resolve individual addictions problems, or improve the quality of life of those in long-term care.
These are the hard realities her opponents must put to her between now and June 7 – but they must offer innovative policy responses of their own. It’s easy to spend (tax) money. Ontario voters, however, live in the real world. It’s not so smart anymore to merely spend their money – no matter how much you say you care.
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