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COLUMN: Ford's pre-election giveaways should go elsewhere

Premier and his conservative cronies have been handing back our money like it’s hot to the touch, like it smells bad and they don’t want it anymore, says reporter
In this file photo from the provincial campaign trail in 2018, Doug Ford greets supporters at a rally in Barrie. Kevin Lamb for BarrieToday

Holy cash-back, Batman!

That’s what Robin would be telling Doug Ford if the latter was indeed the Caped Crusader, instead of just Ontario’s premier.

Because Ford and his Progressive Conservative cronies have been handing back our money like it’s hot to the touch, like it smells bad and they don’t want it anymore.

More than $10 billion of it, the numbers say, promised and probably delivered.

The Boy Wonder would have noticed.

This isn’t new, of course, and neither is the reason.

There’s an Ontario election June 2 and the Ford company is angling for a second straight majority government.

What better way than to give voters money, even though it’s their own money anyway  from income taxes, gas taxes, various fees, etc.

Our money is like a hot potato to Ford in that he seemingly can’t get rid of it fast enough. 

And the giveaway list is a long one, even from an automotive standpoint.

Locally, Honda Canada got almost $132 million to help it manufacture hybrid CRVs during a six-year upgrade to its Alliston manufacturing plants, which employ more than 4,200 people from around these parts.

Nothing for Civic owners there, but we were not forgotten by Ford (the premier, not the auto-maker).

The Ontario government has refunded our vehicle registration fees from the past two years, a total of $1.1 billion in mailed cheques to about 7.5 million vehicle owners.

Yes, I got my cheque for $340 and it went straight into my bank account.

I didn’t say I didn’t want my money back, just that I know why I got it and am not fooled.

Then there’s the province forgoing another $1.1 billion in 2022-23 by scrapping the licence-plate sticker renewal fee for passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks. That will save me $120 a year, more if the Progressive Conservatives are re-elected and continue the savings into their next term of office. Don’t hold your breath.

But another carrot dangles at the end of a stick before me.

The other promise for drivers is that Ford will reduce provincial gas and fuel taxes for six months, starting July 1. This cut of 5.7 cents a litre means a loss of about $645 million to Ontario’s treasury in 2022. 

The catch, of course, is that Ford has to be re-elected, presumably with a majority, to make good on this plan. That’s a real election promise, one which only works if he gets enough votes.

So I get it. Ford is making future promises using our own money without the clout, yet, to carry them out.

Every government makes similar promises leading up to an election.

Every political party does, too.

Ontario’s Liberals, for example, have promised to ban handguns across the province within their first year in office  if elected in June.

Liberal leader Steven Del Duca didn’t offer details of how the ban would work, but the plan would involve the sale, possession, transport,  and storage of handguns across Ontario.

My immediate thought was if a government could do this, it would have already been done. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to see handguns gone. I just don’t like Del Duca making promises he likely can’t keep.

But he’s trying to get elected, he’s trying to get noticed, which is tough with Ford making announcements and giving Ontarians their money back every few days.

It’s like politicians running for a four-year term announcing decade-long plans to save the environment or cut taxes or reduce the deficit or build new highways or run more commuter trains, etc. 

You can’t do it, so don’t promise it. We’re not fooled. 

Getting back to Ford, I haven’t seen Ontario’s latest financial statement, but I suspect this province remains in the red. Two years of pandemic will do that to almost any government.

So why is Ford putting a $10-billion-plus hole in his fiscal projections with all of these handouts?

Shouldn’t he be saving those billions for a rainy day?

Well, no, politicians don’t think that way.

This is their general rule, although rarely spoken: Politicians will do what it takes to get elected, then they will do what it takes to be re-elected. Everything else is just gravy.

So I don’t like any of this, as you’ve probably gathered.

Know what will get my vote June 2? A politician, a party and a platform which admits there’s still a pandemic in Ontario, that it’s in the sixth wave and there’s still a danger to public health which requires masks in public, physical distancing, hand washing, regular testing, and isolation when necessary.

I’m not talking lockdowns, I’m talking common sense. Too little of that these days.

You can spend my tax money on that. 

If there’s any left.

Bob Bruton is a staff reporter at BarrieToday.