Just six weeks before the expected announcement of the Ontario provincial budget, the government has finally released the long-awaited report of the Commission on the Reform of Ontario's Public Services. Chaired by ex-banker Don Drummond, the Commission's mandate was to look at provincial public service delivery and determine "which areas could be delivered more efficiently by another entity."
The report contains 362 recommendations, over 100 of which focus on health care.
Speaking to reporters in a budget-style pre-release lock-up, Drummond acknowledged that his recommendations hearken back to cuts under former premier Mike Harris from 1995-2002.
Thousands of Ontarians will likely sleep fitfully tonight, knowing their fate is in the hands of Don Drummond. Others will sleep like babies, knowing the powerful ex-banker can do them no harm.
Drummond's long-awaited report, to be unveiled on Wednesday at Queen's Park, will lay out a deficit-shrinking program of austerity that is expected to have harsh implications for public employees from hospital cleaners to daycare workers, as well as delivering service cuts with devastating impacts on the poor, the sick, women in shelters and the disabled.
Ontario public service advocates and providers are becoming increasingly and rightfully alarmed about the direction of provincial finances, in the run-up to the public release of the Drummond Commission report, and a subsequent provincial budget that looks to be painfully austere.
The budget-cutting set are ramping up the rhetoric pretty dramatically: warning that Ontario is fast becoming the "Greece of Canada," that we are about to hit the "debt wall," that interest rates will skyrocket when the debt raters wake up, and similar nonsense. This is pure shock-doctrine stuff (reminiscent of like propaganda that set the stage for Paul Martin's austerity in the mid-1990s), and must be called out for what it is.
Since the Ontario government's appointment of the Commission on Broader Public Sector Reform in the March 2011 budget, Ontarians have been told repeatedly that the province's deficit and debt must be reduced through public sector spending cuts. The premise for the creation of what is now known as the Drummond Commission is that eliminating the $16.3 billion provincial deficit by 2017 is paramount and Ontario's public debt is ballooning.
If you are looking for evidence of class collusion you've come to the right place. Last spring, Premier Dalton McGuinty put a banker in charge of examining Ontario's public services and asked him to recommend ways to decrease government spending. While the official report has yet to be released, drafts reveal that it proposes deep funding cuts to social programs, an overhaul of health care and education, and the sale of public services.