Rivers: By almost every measure, Ontario residents are worse off economically today than they were six years ago

By Ray Rivers

March 28th, 2024



There are always some things to like and hate in a budget.   For example announcing a new much needed medical college is welcome.  However it is hard to grasp all of the good things, given the enormity and redundancy of the budget document.  Clearly it was written by a committee and, from all the partisan propaganda, was overseen by a politico.

Perhaps the best reason to read a budget is the snap shot of the state of the province it provides.   And the state of Ontario is not in a good place..  By almost every measure, Ontario residents are worse off economically today than they were six years ago under the Wynne Liberal government. 

Premier Ford and Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance – A couple of sports touting a budget that

Economic growth has faltered, dropping from last year’s unspectacular 1.2% to a miserable forecasted 0.3% in 2024.  By contrast, six years ago under the Wynne government, our economy was ticking along at over two percent.   The consequence of a stalling economy is an increase in jobless numbers.   Unemployment is expected to climb to over 6% this year and likely will only get worse after that.  Six years ago the jobless rate was 5.6%, about the national average, not trailing it as we are today.

It’s only been a year since the pandemic ended, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that the economic indicators last year were better than today.   And, though COVID forced a partial economic shut down, most of the money needed to support people during the pandemic came from the federal government, not Ontario.

Perhaps the most striking example of Mr. Ford’s challenges in managing the economy are seen by the growth in Ontario’s debt level.  Mr. Ford came into the 2018 election, guns a-blazing, bragging about how he alone could wrestle the province’s budgetary deficit into the ground.  So what happened? The province’s deficit for the last full budget year in 2017/18 was $3.7 billion but today’s budget tells us it will soar to a staggering $9.8 billion this year.

Meanwhile Ontario’s debt is rocketing on a pathway to land at close to a half trillion somewhere after the next provincial election.  So much for all those crocodile tears the Tories were offering about saddling our children, and theirs, with all that debt.   Ford’s contribution to that debt burden is heading towards $100 billion over those last six years – going from something like $324 billion to well over $400 billion today.

It’s true Ford is throwing away a billion or so every year since he killed the provincial carbon emissions trading program.  And he blew millions terminating all emerging renewable energy production projects in Ontario.  He spilled even more millions trying to fight the feds on carbon pricing: between the legal proceedings, the gas pump stickers and all those propaganda advertisements.  As a last desperate measure the premier tried to undercut the carbon tax by slashing the provincial gas road tax, and in the process deprived the treasury of millions of dollars to fund highway maintenance and construction.

Of course no one should forget those Tory-blue licence plates which couldn’t even be read.  Then, having failed those developers wanting to gobble up the greenbelt, he is now plowing taxpayer dollars into this 413 highway that virtually no one will use for decades.  But it will profit those developers holding land on the highway route.  And there is the matter of the six billion dollars to compensate health care and other workers affected by his putative salary freeze in the lead-up to the COVID crisis.

The sign says it all

The hallmark policy that ended 15 years of Liberal governance of the province was electricity.  The provincial auditor general had unleashed a storm of criticism with a series of largely hypothetical calculations damning Ontario’s renewable energy program, and all but sealing Kathleen Wynne’s future.  Doug Ford came into power promising to bring down the high cost of electricity.  But all he has done is add more subsidies to the program and run up more debt than ever.  Oh and he has increased our carbon footprint by adding more gas generation to make up for all the renewable facilities he cancelled.

The results are that even though consumer costs for electrical energy have continued to climb at about 2% a year, the consumer subsidy has increased more than four fold, from $1.6 billion when he came to power to over $7 billion dollars in the 2024 budget.  Ontario has become a socialist state when it comes to electrical power, even though it is governed by the most right wing idealist since Mike Harris.

This 2024 budget is not a good news document.  And there is only one word for how we got here: incompetence.  Doug Ford is a very persuasive and eloquent populist.  But when it comes to management, he clearly prefers sleeping at the switch – or riding his snowmobile as he was doing when Ottawa was under attack by a convoy of misfits claiming to represent the trucking industry a few years ago.

This 2024 budget symbolizes how far downhill this province has fallen since we elected a mostly jovial but misguided ideologue with little knowledge about the job he was assuming as its premier.  The good news is that there are replacements waiting to take his place.  The bad news is that replacement is unlikely to happen for another two years.

Ray Rivers, a Gazette Contributing Editor, writes regularly applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers


Background Links

Budget document –      Unemployment –    Deficit Triples –     Electricity rates

Subsidizing Hydro –      Debt History –     Carefree Spending


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5 comments to Rivers: By almost every measure, Ontario residents are worse off economically today than they were six years ago

  • Stephen White

    As disastrous as Doug Ford has been as Premier, Kathleen Wynne was certainly no prize. Just ask the 660,000 Ontario residents who couldn’t afford their hydro bills. The fact the Ontario Liberals are still languishing in third place and don’t even have official party status in the Legislature speaks to Ontarians’ contempt for the provincial Liberals’ mismanagement of the province.

  • Ted Gamble

    I am waiting on Ray’s complementary article on the disastrous effects of run away Federal spending & deficits on the nation that continues to make us all poorer. What is it now GDP per capita has fallen over the last eight quarters.

    I was taken back this week to read that Ontario had a net decrease in population last year despite the ingress of hundreds of thousands of highly educated doctors, nurse and trades. One might suspect migration of educated young professionals is close to all time highs.

    In the meantime I will continue to sell energy to the province at 40 cents per kw and repurchase it at 8.7 cents per kw to power my plug in thanks to the astute economic policies of McGuinty & Wynne.

    If Ray gets his wish as I have stated before electricity rates will triple over the next decade thanks to 15 years of failed successive Liberal government planning. Use it while its cheap because it won’t last and have Union Gas in the mean time upsize your natural gas meter while you still can. Choice & options are important.

  • Grahame

    Spoken like a card carrying Liberal.

  • Adam

    Ya let’s get Kathleen Wynne back! She was fantastic!!! Skyrocketing hydro rates, doubled the debt, sold Hydro One. Love this comment “The provincial auditor general had unleashed a storm of criticism with a series of largely hypothetical calculations damning Ontario’s renewable energy program” What exactly were the hypothetical calculations? Are you referring to this?

    “Premier Kathleen Wynne is defending the $9.2 billion extra that Ontario electricity ratepayers must fork out for the Liberal government’s green energy initiatives.”

    The Liberal Green Energy program was an absolute failure. They blew billions of dollars buying very expensive wind and solar with the idea of creating a green energy economy and creating 50,000 jobs by manufacturing solar panels and wind turbines in Ontario. The program was challenged by the WTO and Ontario lost. We ended up handing out super expensive 20 year contracts at power rates up to $0.8 per kwh, 10x what the going rate for power was at the time, and we did not create any where near 50,000 jobs manufacturing of solar panels or wind turbines, it all still comes from China. If Ontario had simply waited for the cost of solar to come down, we could now procure that very same green power at rates of $0.1 per kwh. Instead we are locked into 20 year contracts with renewable developers who are generating massive profits. This is a similar policy to giving owners of $100,000 Tesla’s a $15,000 rebate on their new car purchase. How does this make any sense? Let’s just wait for more affordable EVs to come to market as they are now. Neither of these programs are accelerating adoption of green technologies, they are just a government giveaways that cost tax payers billions.

  • Joe Gaetan

    The REALLY BAD NEWS is the replacement of the Trudeau era government is unlikely to happen until Oct. 20 25. As stated elsewhere Canada is now ranked 18th in terms of GDP while Ireland is ranked #1. Even worse our productivity is 72% of that of the United states. Similar to the city of Burlington who is on a hiring binge, the federal government increased federal employment by 98,000 since 2015. Unfortunately we are not better off as a result of them hiring this many people. Worse yet these jobs compete with the private sector meaning our productivity will only get worse as governments in themselves do not create the type of jobs that increase our GDP. On April 1st we will see a 23% increase in the Carbon Tax, and the federal MPs will also give themselves a raise. Not to say they don’t deserve an increase, but timing is everything.
    If you are dreaming about dumping this government on October 20, 2025 hold on to your breath as the NDP-Liberal coalition will likely move the date out another week.

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