OF THE numerous options for New Year’s resolutions, getting one’s financial house in order ranks among the biggies. Many who started the new year up to their eyeballs in debt were likely seriously in the red well before the bills from the holidays started rolling in.
For a start, take the province of Ontario. Depending on whom you believe, the government’s deficit could be as astronomically high as $15 billion, or at least a hefty $6.7 billion, as the Liberals claimed before they were booted from office last June.
Though it’s ridiculous that nobody in government seems to know exactly what the figure is, there is at least agreement from all parties that the province is in the red and has been for some time.
If you are badly in debt, but have the gumption to seek advice, a financial adviser would probably tell you to put your credit cards in the freezer and only pay with cash. Be frugal; don’t make purchases you can’t afford. This the tried-and-true advice that is often heard but rarely followed.
When Doug Ford’s Conservatives took over in June, many worried about the province’s shaky finances thought that the new government would finally put an end to needless spending.
When you’re, say, $12 billion in the hole for the year, and your long-term debt is teetering around $350 billion, and nearly $12 billion is going out the window every year just for interest, then you are seriously broke. You’re finances are in the toilet.
And yet, there was the province last week acting like a rich uncle, announcing that Canadian military veterans and active service personnel can in perpetuity waive the cost of provincial fishing licences starting Jan. 1.
Veterans have earned our respect and no doubt many might enjoy an afternoon of free angling. But Ontario is no position to be handing out free gifts to anyone. That is just the hard reality. Gratitude can be expressed in ways, including showing up for Remembrance Day ceremonies and wearing a poppy in November, neither of which adds to the province’s ballooned deficit.
Sound fiscal management is the cure. That’s why it was so concerning when it was widely reported before Christmas that a retrofitted camper fan exclusively for Ford was going to be paid for “off the books.” We need a government that plays it by the book, not one that makes expenditures that taxpayers can’t see.
Also last week, as the province continued to be mired in a mountain of debt, Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford hired a “special adviser” — failed provincial Tory candidate Clifford Bull. Bull could earn up to $70,000 per year over a three-year term, enough to build a home or two on a remote reserve starved for housing.
Bull, a former Lac Seul First Nation chief, is a fine fellow and eminently qualified, of that there is no doubt. But that’s not the point. Surely a financial adviser worth her salt would tell Rickford that — given the province’s appalling balance sheet — that he could get by with the myriad of Indigenous advisers who are not on the government payroll, but are equally clued-in to Indigenous issues.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation, the Chiefs of Ontario, Matawa First Nations, to name but a few — they’re all available to talk to Rickford and fill him in. All he has to do is pick up a phone.
Besides, where is the money for Bull’s advice going to come from? Ontario’s wallet is empty.
Who keeps spending and borrowing when they’re flat broke? Doug Ford’s Conservatives, that’s who.