The Ontario government is a bureaucratic behemoth, and is responsible for the careful balancing of competing interests within our society. With over 14 million people, the way laws impact society are complex and often difficult to predict.
To create or change a law responsibly, the government must consult with interested parties, call experts to testify at committee, and figure out the winners and losers of their plan and decide whether it is worth it.
The media rightfully tries to separate their own emotions from their election coverage, but this can often confuse politics with sport. Elections are not horse races. They are a complicated societal exercise with real consequences to most of us, if not all of us.
That is why when most of the media covered the Ontario NDP’s $1.4 billion a year costing error, it was covered more like a fumble by a football player or an open-net miss in hockey. In fact, it was a sign that the NDP lacks the competent team of support staff required to effectively run a province.
A Dangerous Mistake
The Ontario NDP accidentally took the money they planned to save as contingency “reserve” and added it to revenues rather than to costs. That’s like thinking that every extra dollar you save gives you two extra dollars to spend.
It’s more than an oversight, or even an isolated case.
Apologists might be tempted to argue that it was likely just some anonymous low-level staffer who made the error. However, those same staffers are likely to be the ones overseeing the creation of provincial budgets.
At the very least, staffers are integral to the success of MPPs. We have seen many astonishingly unqualified candidates in this election, but the fact of the matter is that such candidates run in every election and that some of them are always elected.
The point is that in a budgeting context, the made up $1.4 billion in the NDP’s platform costing means $1.4 billion that the government suddenly does not have. Governments allocate funding based on certain expectations, and getting those expectations wrong can have very serious consequences.
It could mean suddenly having to borrow that money without a plan on how to pay it back, leading to yet more increases in taxes and fees. Or, it could even potentially kill planned funding on an important initiative or service.
Either way, there is no overstatement for the danger of brushing this off as an innocent slip-up.