It's not a compulsion, it's a choice
The biggest story in Ontario politics this morning is the planned expansion of what the Globe and Mail's Adam Radwanski calls the province's "gambling empire." The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation is projecting $1.3 billion in additional revenue from new casinos, more retail locations for slots, and online lottery sales.
In his column this morning, Radwanski is presenting it as if moving ahead with the expansion is the only choice McGuinty can make, no matter the moral qualms he might have:
...as a break from the past, from the ideas and ideals that guided previous policies, the planned growth of the province’s gambling empire is right up there with the recent decision to shutter Ontario Place. And it says even more about what we have become, and what we can no longer afford to be.
Faced with a $16-billion deficit, and dismal growth projections that threaten to drive that figure higher still, even Dalton McGuinty – a straight-arrow labelled “Premier Dad” for his proclivity toward nannyism – feels compelled to put the bottom line ahead of his own misgivings.
Suggesting that McGuinty is compelled to move in this direction implies that there are no alternative revenue sources and that's just not true. Increasing the marginal tax rates on the highest income earners or increasing taxes on capital gains would increase revenue and it would come from those who can most afford to contribute.
Since Ontario currently gets the lowest rate of return on mineral resources of any province in the country, there should be lots of room for an increase in resource royalties and mining is certainly one area of the Ontario economy where a boom is expected. See Fire, Ring of.
And then there are corporate taxes, which have decreased steadily for twelve years with the most visible result being higher corporate bank balances. It turns out the corporations don't actually need the money and aren't doing all the good things with it we were led to expect they would. So put the corporate tax rate back up a point or two.
Maybe the budget that Dwight Duncan will table later this month will incorporate some of those measures but I'm guessing that would surprise Adam Radwanski, who writes as if the OLG expansion is the only card McGuinty can play (pun fully intended).
It would surprise me, too, but not because I don't think McGuinty has choices. He does. Basing the province's recovery on a combination of service cuts, wage freezes and gambling profits without any other serious attempts to increase revenue would be a choice to protect the existing concentration of wealth and to squeeze a bit more out of the rest of us. It would be a choice to do nothing in the face of income equality that's increasing at an ever faster rate.'
I would have thought that doing nothing about that would cause even greater misgivings than a decision to open more casinos.