Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives would likely run larger deficits than both the NDP and Liberals, say two economists who’ve reviewed the spending promises made public by the PCs.
Mike Moffatt, an economist with Western University’s Ivey Business School, compared the numbers of the three main parties and found that by their third year the PCs would be running deficits of $6.9 billion in the third year and $7.6 billion in the fourth year.
Andrea Horwath’s NDP government would have the lowest deficits of $6.4 billion in their third year and $5 billion in their fourth year, according to Moffatt’s projections. The Liberals would run deficits of $6.5 billion in their third year and $5.6 billion in their fourth year.
Moffatt, who has provided past policy advice to the Liberals, Greens and Tories, said his projections are an attempt to illustrate the lack of information from the Tories, who have not released a fully costed campaign platform despite months of promises from Ford to do so before voters head to the polls June 7.
“We shouldn’t treat any of these numbers as gospel. I am just trying to piece together whatever I can find,” he told Global News. “It’s based on very incomplete information.”
The PCs quietly released what they called their platform “For The People: A Plan for Ontario,” which lists many of the PCs’ initiatives but does not include a detailed fiscal plan or a path to eliminate the deficit. The plan also makes no mention of Ford’s often repeated promise to cut $6 billion in government “inefficiencies.”
“I was hoping they would release something that looked like the NDP and Liberal and Green Party numbers,” Moffatt said, noting that the platform of former leader Patrick Brown was well designed and fully costed.
“Really, all they have done is taken their press releases and put them on one page,” he said. “It speaks to the last minute nature of this.”
Moffatt included a second set of projections for all three parties that use the accounting methods of the Auditor General, which show the projected deficits to be nearly double. The difference in bookkeeping stems from an issues involving two of the province’s largest public pension plans and from the Liberals’ Fair Hydro Plan.
“We still don’t know from any of the parties what accounting methods they would use,” he said. “We really don’t know what the PC plan is.”
Don Drummond, an economist with Queen’s University, said it’s almost impossible to determine an accurate economic projection for Ford’s plan as some items are costed, some aren’t and others costed over different time periods.
“This is unacceptable,” Drummond said, adding the proposed spending far exceeds $6 billion. “It should at least explain how initiatives are going to be funded.”
“The net impact of this plan is an increase in the deficit from what it would have been otherwise.”
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Drummond released his own report looking at the fiscal discipline of the NDP, Liberals and PCs, and found that while all three parties would increase the deficit, it’s likely the PCs would run up the highest. He also said there is an inherent contradiction in Ford’s pledge to find $6 billion per year in “inefficiencies” without firing anyone.
“You don’t get a lot of savings if you don’t cut the labour bill,” he said.
Speaking in London, Ont., on Thursday, Ford said he isn’t breaking a promise to release a fully costed platform because his plan contains dollar figures beside each item.
“I’m not breaking my promise at all — we have a dollar figure right beside every single item,” he said. “We’re the only party that’s fiscally responsible. We’re the only party that is accurate.”
Ford’s opponents attacked the PCs lack of a fully costed platform.
The Liberals have calculated that Ford’s promised taxes cuts and spending would cost roughly $40 billion over three years and would add more than $27 billion to the province’s deficit between 2019 and 2022.
“It’s not coherent and I really think that they’re not quite sure … how to talk about the fact that all of the things that Doug Ford has said would add up to a $40-billion hole,” Wynne said Wednesday.
Andrea Horwath’s Ontario NDP claimed the PCs were “hiding a costed platform.”
“Ford’s un-costed excuse for a plan does not include a fiscal framework, or a timeline for balancing the provincial budget,” read a statement from the party.
*With files from the Canadian Press