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Doug Ford’s magical bookkeeping hides attacks on the vulnerable

John Bell

September 30, 2022
After tabling a budget that cut billions from healthcare and education funding, in the name of slaying a “deficit” of $33 billion, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his accountants have suddenly announced they discovered a $2.1 billion surplus.
That is a $35.1 billion bookkeeping error. It raises the eternal question: incompetence or corruption. The answer may be both. When Ford defends his government for slashing education and healthcare budgets he inevitably quotes spending huge amounts. He’s out there with his hard hat and silver shovel for the photo op, but the spending announcements are exaggerated if not outright fictions.
Take for instance his recent announcement of “Generations”, a new Long Term Carefacility in Toronto. The official government press release does not specify what the Tories are spending on the project, only that it is part of a $6.4 billion plan to build 30,000 LTC spaces by 2028. 
Generations is touted as “non-profit” but is a private-public partnership. It will create 122 beds by 2026. There’s a huge gap 122 and 30,000. There are currently 38,000 seniors on waiting lists for LTC space.
While self-congratulatory government handouts quote huge amounts willy-nilly, actual accountants tell a different story.
The Financial Accountability Office reportsthat funding for Long Term Care projects is actually being cut. Funding for LTC services is being cut by .4%, more than $26 million less than last year. Overall funding for Long Term Care ministry projects is down $315 million, and LTC capital projects are down $376 million.
These are cuts from a sector that was in a crisis before COVID ripped the lid off scandalous LTC conditions – conditions that prompted the Ford Tories to rush to pass lawsprotecting private LTC operators from lawsuits.  
Ford’s fancy LTC media photo op is pure greywashing, a distraction from his government’s relentless attacks on Ontario’s elderly, disabled and vulnerable population. The real Tory agenda is epitomized by Bill 7, rammed through the legislature without public review, allowing government and hospital bureaucrats to strip sick seniors of their rights, remove them from hospital and dump them in any for-profit LTC facilities not of their choosing, far from their homes, families and support networks. 
Seniors who dare to refuse an unwanted move will be charged between $400 and $1800 per day to stay in hospital. Asked about this fine Ford said: “I can pretty well guarantee you, it's not going to be $1,800.” What a sport.
But Ford is nothing if not fair. He is equally abusive of children as elders.
Buried deep in his budget is this justification for a $1.3 cut to education spending: schools aren’t holding enough bake sales and bottle drives.
“Education sector expense is projected to be lower primarily because school boards experienced a decline in non‐government revenue, from sources such as fundraising, community use of schools and international student tuition, and lower‐than‐projected enrolment. This results in a projected $1.3 billion decrease.”
At a time when the Tories are putting greater demands on schools to make up lost ground, they are cutting funding. In part they blame “declining enrollment” while at the same time they incentivize public schooling for the wealthy. The downward spiral into two-tiered education gathers momentum.
So if Ford has magically discovered billions to give tax breaks to his corporate friends, and spend on unwanted highways, remember where the money came from. What used to be considered elder abuse is now government policy.
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