There is good reason to be gloomy about a new study contrasting Ontario’s prolonged stagnation to recent signs of revival across the border in Michigan state.
One is the simple embarrassment of being compared to a state that has become synonymous with failure. One of the few comforts available to frustrated Ontarians as the province slid steadily into economic torpidity was the knowledge that things immediately across the border were worse. Every article depicting Detroit as an urban apocalypse offered a little spurt of schadenfreude for Ontario: sure, things could be better, but hey, at least we’re not Michigan.
A more compelling basis for gloom lies in the relative state of mind of the two governments. Michigan knew it was in a mess and had to do something about it. When Governor Rick Snyder took office in 2011 he recognized that drastic measures were required, and set out to introduce them.
Ontario’s Liberals, on the other hand, have been in office since 2003 and think they’re doing a swell job. Sure the debt has more than doubled, the province is increasingly dependent on federal transfers to keep its head above water, electricity bills have become a universal source of complaint and manufacturers have fled the province over the regulatory and cost burden, but look at all those windmills we’ve built!
There is some evidence that Ontarians are finally tiring of the decline. A recent poll found Premier Kathleen Wynne’s approval rating at a new low at 16%, testing depths reached by former premier Dalton McGuinty before he fled office. But mid-term polls are of questionable value, and McGuinty’s unpopularity didn’t stop Wynne from winning a new majority in 2014, thanks largely to opposition bumbling.
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