Joe Oliver channels Jim Flaherty in telling Ontario to quit whining and solve its own budget problems – by Kelly McParland (National Post – July 3, 2014 )

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

When the late Jim Flaherty was finance minister, he got a certain joy from taking pot shots at Ontario’s economy, which he felt was badly managed under a series of Liberal governments.

In a 2012 speech he said the province had “no one to blame but themselves” for their troubles, and complained that “Ontario’s spending mismanagement is a problem for the entire country.”

“I would hope that they’re able to manage their spending better than they have been able to do over the past eight or nine years of government.”

He had plenty of justification for his taunts. Under his direction, the federal budget was well on the way to being balanced, while Ontario couldn’t seem to get a handle on its much-smaller shortfall, for all the bold talk from Queen’s Park. At the time of Flaherty’s address, Ontario expected a deficit of more than $12 billion, but was promising to bring it down. Two years later, it is still expecting a deficit of more than $12 billion and is still promising to bring it down.

It was reported that the Prime Minister’s Office eventually intervened and suggested Mr. Flaherty put a sock in it. His successor, Joe Oliver, lacks Mr. Flaherty’s brashness, but also seems to have been freed of the sock. In an article in the Financial Post Thursday, Mr. Oliver suggests, in the politest of terms, that the new government of Kathleen Wynne has no one but itself to blame for the mess it’s made of its economy, and should stop bleating at Ottawa to come to its rescue.

In response to complaints from Ms. Wynne and her Finance Minister, Charles Sousa, that Ontario has somehow been shortchanged – a charge they’ve used to divert attention from their ongoing borrowing binge – Mr. Oliver dismissed their charge as “both false and sad…. False because it is contradicted by the facts and sad because Ontario used to take pride in being a contributor to Confederation and now is squabbling for a greater piece of the pie.”

Money for Ontario under the three main federal transfer programs have all increased dramatically since the Harper government took office in 2006; a 76% hike overall, to a record $19.2 billion, he said. Of that, $2 billion is under the equalization program, which is designed to help less prosperous provinces, which Ontario didn’t used to be.

“As the engine of the Canadian economy, Ontario had never collected Equalization money until 2009,” Oliver notes sharply. “The year before, Premier Dalton McGuinty argued it was time to kill the program, which Ontario was paying into. Now that it is a ‘have-not’ province receiving equalization funds, the Ontario government has changed its tune and wants more.”

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