Teachers’ work-to-rule out of step

By Mike Williscraft

I’ve said it before, and I will likely say it again, but all public sector employees – provincial and federal, including MPPS and MPs – should take a 10 per cent wage roll back until budgets reach significant surpluses.

Teachers’ unions are cranking up another round of work-to-rule and, most likely, eventual strike.

We can debate all day whether it is about money or not. Even if you want to make it about class sizes, that is still money.

For the moment, let’s just set aside the matter of kids being bandied about as pawns. Let’s just look at the macro of the situation.

To be clear, all political parties who have been in power have driven up the provincial deficit. To stay within reasonable history, I have gone back to the start of the McGuinty era as premier which ran from 2003 to 2014.

In that time, the net public debt grew to $287.3 billion from $138.8 billion – more than doubling with an increase of $148.5 billion.

The net debt to GDP ratio grew to 40 per cent from 27.5 per cent. Ontario has been a province since 1867 but 87 per cent of its net public debt has been accumulated in the years since 1990. With a little bit of overlap:

• 2013 – Kathleen Wynne elected
deficit $260 billion

• 2014
deficit $276 billion

• 2015
deficit $294 billion

deficit $306 billion

• 2017
deficit $314 billion

• 2018 – Wynne out, Doug Ford in as premier
deficit $323 billion – provincial debt up $64 billion during Wynne years, average nearly 13 billion per year increase.

• 2019
deficit $338 billion

• 2020
deficit $354 billion – nearly $30 billion higher with Ford, averaging nearly $15 billion per year increase.

The average annual interest paid since 2013 is about $10.8 billion.

At today’s level of debt, the most recent year’s interest is nearly $13 billion.

So if this was akin to the bush fires of Australia, exactly how many piles of taxpayers’ dollars would you say, good reader, are aflame to get into that level of financial loss?

These numbers are rounded off but were all taken from a Fraser Institute report.

So a couple of things:
1) Nobody would continue to operate their home budget under such financial conditions. You’d be bankrupt and in the street in no time.
2) The financial gravy train has to stop.

There really is no ifs and or buts about it.

I get the teachers’ point. which I got a couple of years ago when I last penned this kind of notion, that their sector should not be penalized for the lavish spending habits of government.

I hear that and I understand that point.

But look at the scale of the issue. I am 100 per cent sure there is government waste and there will continue to be minor (relatively) expenditures until the cows come home but major, long-lasting financial cuts have to come to get the house in order without taxing the overtaxed or cutting more bone from other programs.

This kind of choice not a choice anymore. Do residents want more cuts to health care, more programs taken off the “covered” list, more programs cancelled? Of course not.
There was a day when teaching was considered a noble career – long hours, poor paying – people who wanted to be in those jobs took them on. That has changed greatly to the point where many of those see great pay (meaning the cheques keep coming), superior benefits and considerable pension packages.

It does not need to go back to that, but it cannot continue, in all areas of government, as it has.

We can’t balance a budget one year and it would take about 150 years of $12 billion surpluses to get the debt paid off ($2 billion on debt and $10 million on annual interest…recognizing interest would drop as years click by).

This is why I have no patience when I hear any government employee talk about job action. You want small class sizes, take the roll back and the government can hire more teachers. The math isn’t tough.

As noted, this has nothing to do with political stripe. If the Green Party was in power, the financial need would be the exact same.

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