Ontario Leaders Debate 2011: fiddling while Ontario burns

To the credit of the three leaders of Ontario’s largest political parties, there was a great deal of talk about policy in last night’s leaders debate. That is always nice to see both from the perspective of a policy wonk and a voter. I found, however, that most of the policies that were being hotly debated were pretty irrelevant.

Ontario is in economic and financial trouble. This is the issue that should be dominating the election but by tacit agreement none of the major parties are really talking about it. There are two questions that were asked that should have brought this issue to the forefront but all three leaders allowed each other off the hook and gave incredibly weak answers.

The first question was how the budget is going to be balanced.

Dalton McGuinty responded by talking about how much spending he introduced and plans to introduce.

Tim Hudak responded by talking about how he will make sure that ¾ of the budget is defended from cuts (health and education).

Andrea Horwath responded by saying something about blank cheques to corporations which I think was referring to corporate tax cuts, but that doesn’t make any sense on a couple of levels.

The second question is closely related to the first question, although perhaps not many people realize it. The last question of the night asked if the party leaders would be open to more private participation in the health care system. With health care spending growing faster than government revenue and taking up about half of the budget this is an important question for deciding how to get Ontario out of deficits.

Dalton McGuinty responded by saying he will beg for more money from the federal government (forgetting it seams that there is only one taxpayer).

Tim Hudak responded with an anecdote about how it sucks to have a child that is sick (I have absolutely no doubt that it sucks a lot).

Andrea Horwath responded with a rant against the capitalist system (which to be fair is at least on message).

There was another question that asked why politicians aren’t bolder. Each tried to respond by saying that they are bold, but the answers described above makes a lie of these claims. Yet the solutions to Ontario’s problems will require boldness and none of the leaders last night showed that they have an ounce of it.