Has Canada heard the Finance Minister’s last budget speech? Hopefully yes. Will Ontario survive his cuts? Hopefully yes.

By Ray Rivers

February 14, 2014


If you believe that citizenship is a privilege as well as a right, you might be pleased with the Harper government’s recent initiative making it tougher for immigrants to become Canadians.  Indeed there are no good arguments against longer residency requirements for potential citizens.  And, discouraging ‘citizens of convenience’ is something we would all agree with.  Recall how we had to send a ship to Lebanon to rescue our ‘citizens of convenience’ living there during the last Israeli bombing a few years ago.

Immigration is what has grown this country – will the new rules fix the mistakes that were made?

But Mr. Harper’s plans to strip citizenship from unsavory characters will run into problems with our constitution and possibly our international treaties – not that anyone would object to seeing terrorists deported.  Of particular concern is the plan for citizenship to be placed in the hands of the minister, instead of an independent citizenship judge or panel, as it is now.  Just another bad idea tempting politicians onto the slippery slope of political corruption.

Canada has always been pretty accepting of immigrants, even before we allowed them to buy their way into the country, a practice which we’ve mostly ended.  Other places like New Zealand, which had been the victim of ‘brain drains’ in the 50’s and again the 80‘s welcomes young immigrants who can contribute to its economy.  But don’t even think about retiring there as an immigrant, unless you can ante-up with over a million dollars in cash.

On the other hand, Switzerland, always cautious about how immigration might erode Swiss values, has become even more restrictive, recently voting to shut the door to a potential flood of European Union (EU) applicants.   And then there is the USA which has talked about immigration reform for the last fifteen years while illegal immigration has made a mockery of government policy.  And given the Americans’ perennial legislative gridlock, don’t expect much to change over the next fifteen either. 

Will the aboriginal student population get the services they need to become employable – or are we still in that old Residential School mindset?

Another initiative last week came with the announcement that the government will fund efforts to improve aboriginal education.  It is disgraceful that those students who do complete secondary school on reserves fail to meet provincial education standards and  can’t compete for the better jobs in the labour market.  So this is a very welcome and long overdue initiative – one we would have seen in place almost a decade ago had Jack Layton and Stephen Harper not teamed up to bring down the Martin government and kill the Kelowna Accord.  

The last federal budget form Minister of Finance Flaherty didn’t do anything for Ontario. “We were ripped off” said the Ontario Premier.

Then this week the Minister of Finance, Jim Flaherty, brought down the federal budget and he might as well have left his old shoes on.  While the budget came close to being balanced, it did so by delaying costly Tory programs and promises until after the next election.  And some of the spending cuts came on the back of government employees.  Salary and pension cuts, while helping bring the budget close to balance, will continue to take its toll on a public service already under performing due to lack of resources, morale and leadership. 

Flaherty also cut his own home province’s equalization payment by over $600 million, in an unprecedented action.  This is just old fashioned meddling in provincial politics, helping his old friend Hudak.  Holding back money due the province, this former MPP is trying to further damage the Liberal government at Queens Park, in advance of a provincial election expected this spring. 

Ontario’s Minister of Finance claims the province was ripped off and short changed by $600 million by the federal government.

Premier Wynne held a media conference the next day to complain about the 110 actions the Tories have undertaken to hurt Ontario since they came to power in 2006.  Flaherty arrogantly re-announced the Canada Job Grant, which the feds had generously advertised last year regardless that the program didn’t even exist.  And since it was supposed to involve the provinces, Ontario wasn’t alone complaining about the absence of any consultation. 

This is Mr. Flaherty’s ninth budget and his tamest, given those omnibus bills which have done serious damage to Canada’s environmental assessment process and emasculated its fisheries act.  This is probably his last budget as well.  Perhaps that is why it is so uninspiring, much like its author, the real Flaherty.  I think back to his economic statement in 2008, which nearly brought down the Harper government.

Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.

Background Links:

New Citizenship Rules   Current Immigration Rules   Citizenship Stripping   New Zealand    Aboriginal Education

Aboriginal Education Crisis   Kelowna Accord


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12 comments to Has Canada heard the Finance Minister’s last budget speech? Hopefully yes. Will Ontario survive his cuts? Hopefully yes.

  • Greg Fabian

    While I appreciate reading informational news articles, I too am growing weary of the left leaning Liberal bias in both the articles and opinion pieces, not just by Ray Rivers, but by Pepper Parr and by Staff as well.

    In the Staff article of Jan 21 entitled “Formidable advocate for stronger cycling safety measures to be a candidate for the Liberal provincial nomination”, the writer declares that McMahon is a shoe-in during the next provincial election by assuming that “should they prevail in the two by election [sic] scheduled for February 13th, that election will be a certainty – and will probably mean Eleanor McMahon will become the provincial member for Burlington.”

    Well, one step at a time. Let’s look at the by-election results and reflect on how the electoral sentiment is clearly not in the Liberal favour. And I don’t really think that is merely hind sight. That the Liberals would lose both seats was quite easily predicted.

    On Feb 8, in his piece “Premier comes to town to talk up local Liberal candidate – she might have a star candidate on her hands” Pepper Parr showed his red stripes with such declarations as:

    “The previous Premier, Dalton McGuinty, had resigned….” Not quite. He ran and hid, leaving Ontario broken, down and out.

    Further Pepper stated “Eleanor is my side of 40, in good shape with a clear sense of who she is and what a Liberal government is supposed to be about: fiscally responsible and compassionate.”

    Really? When over the last 10+ years has the Liberal government given you the slightest indication they are fiscally responsible?

    The Ontario debt is now over $262 billion dollars. And let me remind you of the Liberal policies and screw-ups imposed on the people of Ontario: the Ontario Health Tax, E-Health, Ornge, $1 billion on gas plant cancellations, the Green Energy Act and contracts that have us pay far more for energy than necessary, $260 million granted to Ubisoft to create 800 jobs by 2020 (that’s $325K per job), the eco-fee disaster, the Pan Am Games running far over budget, and now talk of raising the gasoline tax by 10 cents per litre.

    Fiscally responsible? Nothing could be further from the truth. The Liberals have dug a big hole and buried Ontario and it will be a formidable task to climb out. I would suggest, admittedly with some exaggeration for effect, without some austerity programs in the future this province is headed for bankruptcy.

    Granted, Ontarians have voted them in time and again, so as the saying goes, you deserve who you vote for. Let’s hope next time the electorate will actually think before heading to the polling booths.

    And who cares if she is in good shape or not. Physical fitness does not imply she would be a worthy legislative representative.

    The love in with McMahon and the Liberals is sadly so blatant. Pepper has clearly already decided for himself and is trying to convince everyone else that she is a shoe-in during the next election. Pepper dismissed any opponents as having no chance against her with the betting odds clearly in McMahon’s favour against McKenna or anyone else.

    At the end of the article there was a weak attempt to advise everyone “make a point of listening to her and deciding for yourself….” That is a bit too little, too late to be convincing that you are genuinely concerned for an informed voter.

    With that article Pepper Parr did a fine job auditioning as McMahon’s campaign manager. I can’t wait for the outpouring of Liberal love when the election is called.

    Let’s hope the people of Ontario will have the good sense to reflect on how the Liberals have treated us these past years; wasting our hard earned money and disassembling jobs and the economy and truly show that they do not have the capacity to lead Ontario to a prosperous future.

    And finally I will leave with this. In Pepper Parr’s article on Feb 13 titled “Three in the ring for the office of Mayor? Goldring, McKeown and Meed Ward? Stranger things have happened” he has already declared there will be “A Justin Trudeau sweep, not as big as his Fathers in 1968 but a sweep nevertheless”.

    How’s that for Liberal love.

    Editor’s note: This will all settle itself when the provincial election is called. We did say that we thought Wynne could well lose the election but that McMahon could still win the seat – not because she is a Liberal – but because what we see was a superb political performer who we fully expect to disagree with – frequently. The results will tell the story, which we will report in detail. Same with the 2015 federal election.

    • Tony Pullin

      “Editor’s note: This will all settle itself when the provincial election is called.” Will it? So when an MPP is elected we can say “ha, I told you so”? I think Greg Fabian’s well formulated comment says much more than that. Nothing is “settled” until a competent governing body acknowledges and addressed the pressing issues that Greg and others have raised.

      I enjoy reading the Gazette and appreciate the enormous effort that Pepper Parr expends in bring Municipal information to us. Like others, I have noticed a decidedly Liberal tilt to Mr. Parr’s writing of late. That of course, is his perogative. I generally feel that Party politics at the Municipal level is mostly unnecessary and always divisive.

  • Joe Lamb

    I am pleasantly surprised at the number of posts on this article. My thoughts are as follows.Ray and Pepper. There is little doubt that both of you politically are left of centre . Perhaps that is why the two of you have married up together. Birds of a feather tend to flock together ! Unfortunately too many people believe what is written and don’t recognize that it may be inaccurate or very bias. In my opinion you both need to be more balanced in your reporting otherwise you are not serving the community in a proper and professional manner. Just my thoughts. Joe Lamb.

    Editor’s note: We invited Ray Rivers to contribute knowing he was a Liberal. We make a point of putting a small bio at the end of every column he writes saying who he is and what he has done. We are still looking for a Conservative and a New Democrat who can do the same thing. Rivers provides an opinion – that is all it is – his opinion, which in a civilized society is welcomed and debated. It is not reporting – there is a difference.

  • Fred Pritchard

    It is disappointing that Mr. Harper’s Hate on for Ontario continues to drive policy. At every turn the Federal Con’s have tried to manipulate the rules to keep money out of Ontario.

    Since Harper took office, almost $1 Billion dollars has been misdirected away from Ontario. These are OUR tax dollars that should be returned to Ontario. Either through debt reduction or spending on neglected infrastructure from the Harris Tories years.

    It’s a shame we have to wait another year to get a fair Government in Ottawa.

  • Daryl

    So this article isn’t biased at all..i’m pretty sure the Liberals could have saved a lot more than 600M if not for scandals and waste.

    Editor’s note: The piece is the opinion of one person. The writer provides significant experience and adds more research and background to each piece he writes. He writes regularly as a columnist; try to understand the difference between a news piece and an opinion piece and note on our mast head that we write news and news analysis in a lively informative style.

  • Greg Fabian

    The Ontario Liberals are doing a fine job of damaging themselves and do not require the assistance of any outside agency.

    Wynne should hardly complain about the “110 actions the Tories have undertaken to hurt Ontario since they came to power in 2006”.

    Likely she wasn’t able to count high enough to compile a list of all the actions/damages the Liberals have done to Ontario over the past 10+ years and allowed the debt nearly double, now in excess of $262 billion.

    We are getting to a point of no return and I think we have to get our collective act together first before we go cap in hand begging for loose change.

    Without a well founded economice action plan we are doomed. The economic viability of Ontario is very fragile with no signs that it will turn around. Drastic action is required now.

    God forbid if the Ontario Liberals have the same mindset as the brillant economic think-tank that Justin Trudeau is when he recently decreed that if you concentrate on growing the economy then the budget will balance itself. No, the government must actively manage the defecit/debt. It is not sustainable on the current track. We must act now.

    Gordon Liddy once famously said a liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.

  • Tony Pullin

    The Ontario debt grows by $1 billion per month. This is a problem. $600m would merely serve to defer this growing debt for approx 18 days. The Ontario Premier and Finance Minister should address this problem. Ray Rivers should also address this problem.

    • Ray Rivers

      Thanks Tony – That is a good idea – I will address it.


      • Tony Pullin

        Yes Ray, Like Luke says (above comment), its not a matter of political stripes anymore. This is not a game where your team is your team no matter what. This is legacy that is going to be passed on to our children and theirs after we have gone. This debt/deficit problem has so many repercussions that go all the way down the line and is truly the biggest monster that we face today. Don’t care if you are Liberal, don’t care if you’re NDP, Tory, Green, Purple or Polka dotted. Don’t care whose fault it was, or is. Lets just get onto fixing it – please.

  • Luke McEachern

    Perhaps the author of the article while “25 years as a federal bureaucrat”, didn’t bother himself to learn or care to learn that Federal Equalization payments are Constitutionally entrenched, as is the formula for distribution of same, since 1982?
    Would it be Mr. Rivers further Opinion that he likes it that under the Liberal Ontario “Nanny State” we have gone from Net provider to Equalization payments to net collector status?

    Frankly, I don’t care that you are a Liberal or anything else but if you can’t manage your money you just won’t have any. This is how we have raised our children and they get it.
    The Ontario Government’s waste of Taxpayer money for the last 11 years is so abominable that words cannot express my sense of despair.

  • Joe Lamb

    As I was reading this article I was thinking to myself that Ray Rivers sure sounds like a bleeding heart Liberal and a bureaucrat . As I got to the end of the article and read his background I was spot on. It would be nice to read a balanced article from him sometime. Why doesn’t he tell us all about the fine work the Liberals have done in the last decade or so in Ontario ? At least the article would be short.

    • Randy Lipshitz

      Typical Liberal approach. Never happy spend spend spend junkies who look only to the next spend high. The debt has doubled; maybe Ray is hoping for the debt to triple under the Liberal care. Never happy.

      Whereas, most normal people understand that the Flaherty approach to fiscal management is the right way.

      You will find many disgruntled government employees who have lived in the safety of de-motivating environs of civil service offices peppered throughout this province, led by rabid union terrorists.

      The cure for this type of crotchety behaviour is to send those suffering from this affliction straight into public sector realities, where one only eats what one kills.

      There is still too much government cancer affecting the future health of our economy.