The Ontario government is expected to release the Drummond Commission report shortly. That report that is expected to substantially shape Ontario’s fiscal plan going forward. Don Drummond was appointed to provide the Ontario government with a plan to reduce the deficit. He has indicated that drastic cuts to budgets will be needed, and that he will recommend privatization of services to increase value for money and efficiency. The premier, in a speech last week, reiterated his commitment that he will not increase taxes to address the deficit.
In a recent post, Alex Himelfarb made an interesting distinction between fiscal prudence and austerity. He argues that fiscal prudence means spending wisely, reducing waste, collecting sufficient taxes to pay for the public goods and services we want, and keeping debt down. He contrasts that with an austerity agenda — a persistent emphasis on low taxes and cuts to services and public goods, and characterizes it as ideology masquerading as fiscal common sense.
I used that post for inspiration for a submission to the Commission on Quality Public Services and Tax Fairness, an alternative to the Drummond Commission established by the Public Services Foundation of Canada. In that submission, we argued that the government should keep Ontarians’ health in mind when it evaluates the Commission’s recommendations.
Keeping Ontarians healthy will require more than the Premier’s promise to protect the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care’s budget. There are many ways austerity programs have an impact on health. Increased unemployment, lower job quality, decreased access to or levels of social benefits, and less access to services that support social inclusion will all have negative health impacts. And, these impacts will fall disproportionately on Ontarians with lower socio-economic status.
We argued that the government needs to consider how an austerity agenda will make inequities worse in Ontario, and that it’s not too late to avoid making that mistake.
Read the submission here.