Toronto·Analysis

Kathleen Wynne needs a win with Ontario's budget

As Kathleen Wynne prepares for today's provincial budget, she needs to have something go right, something that will address not only her critics, but her skeptics, too.

Premier needs to address not only her critics but her skeptics

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (right) sits with her partner Jane Rounthwaite during second half NBA basketball playoff action between Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards in Toronto on Saturday. The Raptors lost. (The Canadian Press)

As Kathleen Wynne prepares for Thursday's provincial budget, she needs to have something go right.

And she needs to address not only her critics but her skeptics, too.

Wynne's agenda is "big and its bold," beginning with her commitment to deal with greenhouse gases with her new cap-and-trade plan unveiled last week.

But, in the absence of detail — and that may unfold in the months ahead — the void has been filled with concern and criticism that her plan is little more than another tax or cash grab.

Wynne rejects that. But, the reality that she knows well is a $10.9 billion budget deficit and her commitment to $29 billion for infrastructure and transit.

You don't have to be a math whiz to figure out there's a gap.

So, Wynne is setting out on more big and bold with the proposal to sell off 60 per cent of Hydro One and to bring beer (wine will have to wait for now) into hundreds of large Ontario grocery stores.

The rewards are clear financially though politically the jury is still out.

There would be few in the real world, outside the Legislature, who would say that cleaning up the air we breathe is a bad thing. But, in examining Wynne's cap-and-trade plan you quickly discover the Liberals will set the cap and you can almost see the line of lobbyists forming now.

Was it a coincidence, for example, that General Motors executives had front row seats for her plan's announcement?

Unlikely.

Is the quid pro quo for the auto sector a commitment to produce more green vehicles and a break on the emissions cap? Maybe?

Even if it isn't, the Liberal record on things like this is not good and even friends of the government point to the Green Energy Plan — albeit under Dalton McGuinty — that passed out millions to a favoured few businesses under the guise of a pollution abatement program but had consumers picking up the tab.

Some would argue the plan was a mistake — a colossal one by the Liberals — and that is why there is some much skepticism about cap-and-trade.

But then again the Premier's granddaughter, Olivia, may well grow up to brag about what her grandma did to protect the environment. And from her public statements that is clearly Wynne's wish.     

Then there's the Hydro One. Once it's gone, it's gone. And while there's a quick cash hit – about $4-billion when all is said and done — the real consequences of that decision will be felt for years, even with the government's promise to protect ratepayers and taxpayers already burdened by and fed up with ever increasing Hydro rates.

But, that type of commitment has been made before and the province's political landscape is littered with promises made but not kept — the gas plants decision, E-Health and Ornge Air Ambulance and the still unresolved aroma of the Sudbury byelection.

But for Wynne one thing is very clear she must cap the scandals and misadventures with taxpayers and trade the past and present for the future, to ensure she has one.

About the Author

Robert Fisher

Provincial Affairs Specialist

A commentator with decades of experience covering Queen's Park, Robert Fisher writes about politics for CBC.ca. He is an award-winning broadcast journalist with more than 30 years of experience in public and private radio and television.

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