Kathleen Wynne's budget is a two headed beast. One head talks about investing in infrastructure and training. The other head talks about spending restraint. As with all two headed beasts, when the heads quarrel, the animal is paralysed. Tom Walkom writes that the beast was born of a traditional Liberal strategy -- campaigning from the left, but governing from the right:
[Jean] Chrétien was elected on a centre-left platform that made no mention of cuts to public services. Yet once in power, he and finance minister Paul Martin took an axe to the pillars of the welfare state — including employment insurance, welfare and medicare.
And Moody's -- by lowering Ontario's credit rating -- is suggesting that Wynne follow that path. But Moody's was part of the economic boondoggle six years ago. Walkom hopes that Wynne doesn't take her cues from either Moody's or Chretien:
The current slowdown has pushed Ontario’s net debt to GDP ratio to about 40 per cent. That’s higher than the ratio faced by other provinces, save Quebec. It’s also higher than Ottawa’s.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is too high. Throughout its boom years, Japan’s government debt to GDP ratio exceeded 100 per cent. But creditors never stopped lending to Tokyo because — then at least — the money was used for productive purposes.
And that really is the point: the money must be spent productively:
When Wynne speaks of governing from the “activist centre,” she is speaking directly to that tradition. Ontarians disapprove of governments that waste money. But they don’t mind seeing their tax dollars spent on useful endeavours.
It's all about which head does most of the talking.