Cometh the election, cometh the posturing:
The Liberal premier of Ontario — home to more than one third of the 338 seats up for grabs on Oct. 19 — said Canada needs to replace Harper with a prime minister who will work collaboratively with the provinces.
"I have said for some time and I will continue to say that we really need a change," Wynne said in a phone interview.
"We need a new approach from a new prime minister. In this country, we need a federal government that will work with, and not against, provinces."
In particular, Wynne said Ontario needs a federal government that will "work in partnership" with the country's largest province.
She criticized Harper for refusing to work with Ontario on development of a supplementary pension plan.
It is a time honoured tradition that premiers look to Ottawa for one reason and one reason only: To beat the Prime Minister of the day over the head with their begging bowls. What Kathleen Wynne is looking for is not a "partnership" but a ceaseless no-strings-attached flow of federal money. Like a petulant teenager the sextuagenarian premier always wants more and offers little in return. Prime Minister Harper has wisely refused to play her game.
Of particular irritation to the pantsuited Ontario leader is Ottawa's reluctance to back her new supplementary pension plan. The scheme is both unnecessary and corrupt in the finest traditions of the McGuinty-Wynne years. Even at a glance the plan's rationale - that Ontarians are saving too little for retirement and must be "helped" by the government - falls apart quickly.
Many Canadians save too little because they are paid too little. A pension payroll tax will significantly lower the take home pay of the poor, a cruel and regressive act for an allegedly "liberal" government. Even if the issue is that too few save, among those who could afford to, it is hardly the role of a near bankrupt provincial government to play retirement planner.
The corrupt aspect of Ontario's new pension scheme is a tad more subtle. The money siphoned off from Ontarians paycheques would be placed into the hands of an "arm's length" investment board. Now at the federal level the Canada Pension Plan is administered by such a board.
Those of us who have lived through twelve years of Liberal misrule understand that nothing in Ontario is at arm's length from the Premier's office. From the lawlessness of Caledonia to the eHealth boondoggle, the Liberals have a remarkable habit of twisting public policy to partisan advantage.
Now imagine that you're Kathleen Wynne - please try to subdue the gag reflex - and billions of dollars now flow into the provincial coffers from this de facto payroll tax. Perhaps the money gets tossed into general revenues. Queen's Park then turns arounds and issues IOUs to the "arm's length board" in the form of increasingly worthless provincial bonds. The pension would for actuarial purposes be "fully funded" but as a practical matter one pocket of government is borrowing from the other.
But perhaps the Wynnesters are a tad more clever than all that. The revenues from this payroll tax go directly to the allegedly "arms length" investment board. Nothing goes into general revenues and the Liberals allow themselves a patina of fair dealing. The board, however, will almost certainly have its investment guidelines laid out by the government. Those guidelines, by the strangest coincidence, will likely have an "invest in Ontario" component.
Some of the money will get used to buy up provincial bonds, lowering the government's cost of borrowing at a time when capital markets are getting skittish about Ontario debentures. Quite a lot of the rest will be used to fund infrastructure projects, private-public sector partnerships and other initiatives that will, mysteriously, favour Liberal allies. The Chretien era Adscam scandal will seem like chump change in comparison.
Out of the crooked timbers of the Liberal Party no straight thing was ever made. Ontario's new pension plan is no exception.
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