"They advise, we decide"
The report of the Commission on the Reform of Ontario's Public Services, aka the Drummond report, is due for public release tomorrow and Dalton McGuinty reminds us -- not for the first time -- that it will contain recommendations and not marching orders. This is one thing McGuinty has right. And incidentally, notice that he said "they" and not "he." Obviously he remembers what the press corps seems to have forgotten: it's the Drummond Commission and there are three other commissioners.
In fact the Queen's Park press corps has seemed prone to present Don Drummond as some kind of force of nature whose recommendations come infused with the same kind of inevitability as the darkness that must surely follow the dawn. For most it may just be an effort to make their copy more dramatic and compelling but in a few cases I suspect there's something a bit darker at work: a desire to promote an austerity agenda that's neither necessary nor desirable.
If none of the recommendations from Drummond's report that have been leaked thus far include suggestions for increasing revenue rather than reducing expenditures, that's not because increases in revenue are impossible to find. It's because the Drummond Commission's mandate wasn't to manage the totality of the province's finances. The commission's mandate was to review the delivery of public services with an eye towards eliminating duplication, increasing efficiency and maximizing value. If tax increases aren't contemplated in the recommendations, it's because that restriction was placed on the commission by the government.
Reviewing the state of Ontario's public services without consideration for tax increases was -- and remains, assuming the premier hasn't had a change of heart -- a political decision made by the McGuinty government. If they wanted to increase revenues, the premier and his finance minister could consider increasing corporate taxes, increasing the marginal tax rates on the wealthiest in the province or raising resource royalties. Or all three.
I'll be pleasantly surprised if any of those options are included in the budget Finance Minister Dwight Duncan tables next month but I don't expect to see anything more than a delay on further cuts to the corporate income tax rate. I expect to dislike that budget a great deal but I won't waste a lot of time cursing Don Drummond for it. It will be entirely on Duncan and McGuinty.