Friday, June 13, 2014

Has the Public Sector reached a Critical Mass?

On June 12, 2014 another Liberal Majority government was elected despite a record number of scandals that cost taxpayers billions of dollars. What should have been a public shaming and humiliating defeat for the incumbent has turned into a clean slate to pursue a policy of empowered paternalism.

How could this happen?  I asked a prominent economist from the University of Western Ontario for his opinion on why the Tories were failing to catch fire with the electorate. His only answer was “it means that errors were made” (by the Tories). The answer could lie in an examination of those so called “errors”. The Tories had campaigned with a moderate plan to create private sector jobs and stabilize the fiscal deficit. They had called it the “Million Jobs” plan that would require a slowing in the growth of government. The result was a tidal wave of alarmism from public sector unions, and surprisingly from a few private sector labour organizations such as the Journalist’s Union.  The Tory plan was portrayed as a “slash and burn” agenda that would, believe it or not, destroy the province's economy. Was Tim Hudak’s error that he did not hide the fact that he believed something had to be done about provincial spending? Was it a tactical error to endorse the chopping of 100K public sector jobs? Was it a mistake to focus on Ontario’s competitiveness? Some pundits think so. Yet, this is a reaction to a plan that focused on fiscal responsibility (I would argue in a very moderate manner) and its failure to attract support points to a much deeper transition that has taken place within the province.

Over the past decade the Ontario government has aggressively broadened its powers to influence and distort the economy. It has dramatically increased the cost of energy with its draconian implementation of the Green Energy Act. It has thwarted entrepreneurial growth within the health industry by enforcing professional privilege that restricts less expensive resources from providing services. It has mandated that automobile drivers should be harassed with insurance services they don’t need and cannot opt out of, while forcing them to comply with overbearing and expensive inspection requirements. It has broadened the scale and cost of the education system so that children are drawn into the system at a much younger age.  The government has also lavishly spent its treasure on computerized databases that watch every detail of a citizen’s health status and drug purchases, driving habits and other metadata intrusions. These incursions have contributed to the explosive growth of Public Sector employment and Private Sector Cronies who are funded in whole or in part by the government.

The growth of the Public Sector has a corollary growth in the mandate for organizations that are designed to protect and expand the incomes and jobs of those who work for the government. This mandate includes political action in favour of more public spending. With the continuous growth of the Public Sector it will soon reach a critical mass where this vested interest has the power to elect the government it chooses.  Ontario is now faced with the terrifying prospect of being at the mercy of its own public infrastructure. It explains why a Liberal Party that has been in power for almost a decade and has been responsible for the most expensive scandals in the Province’s history can be re-elected with a majority in the Legislature. 

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