Ontario finances 'badly mismanaged,' Flaherty says

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says Ontario's finances have been "badly mismanaged" for "almost nine years."
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty had harsh words for the Ontario Liberals on Friday, calling it a "sad government" that has "badly mismanaged" the province's finances. (Canadian Press)

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says Ontario’s finances have been "badly mismanaged" for "almost nine years."

Flaherty made the comments Friday during an interview with Metro Morning host Matt Galloway on CBC Radio.

Galloway brought up Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s comments calling the federal budget, which was released Thursday, as "penny wise and pound foolish."

That triggered some sharp words from Flaherty, who represents the Ontario riding of Whitby-Oshawa and who served as finance minister in the cabinet of former Ontario premier Mike Harris. Flaherty’s wife, Christine Elliott, is a Progressive-Conservative member of the Ontario opposition and represents the provincial riding of Whitby-Oshawa.

"I’m waiting for the Ontario government to grow up quite frankly," Flaherty said. "This is a sad government, badly mismanaged now for almost nine years. The result is the rating agencies around the world are looking at the Ontario government and going ‘actually, we don’t even trust your credit-worthiness.'

"This is a serious problem, when a large government in Canada is not trusted by the rating agencies around the world."

Flaherty also said his government has a good record maintaining transfer payments to the provinces. 

"The Liberal government in the mid-1990s cut those [transfers]  ... it’s the easiest thing I could do to balance my budget but I will not do it because I know the consequences on the ground in Ontario and in every other province in this country."

'Let's find common ground,' McGuinty says

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was asked about Flaherty's comments in Ottawa on Friday afternoon and said he would prefer to see both levels of government work together instead of exchanging barbs.

"I think we're always at our best when we work together," said McGuinty. "What I would say in response to Minister Flaherty is 'let's find some common ground.'" 

The Ontario government unveiled its budget on Tuesday. It includes a $15.3-billion deficit for the year ahead with a plan to return to balance by 2017-18. The federal budget projects a $21.1 billion deficit for next year and a plan to balance the books by 2015-16. 

Flaherty also defended his government’s record on federal-provincial transfers, saying the Conservatives have resisted cutting them despite rising fiscal pressures.