Ontario: NDP preparing to support another Liberal austerity budget

 

By
Keith Jones

11 May 2013

With strong backing from the trade unions, the New Democratic Party (NDP) is again preparing to enable Ontario’s minority Liberal government to impose a big business austerity budget.

In the spring of 2012, the NDP ensured the adoption of a Liberal budget that made sweeping social spending cuts–cuts larger than those the hated Conservative government of Mike Harris imposed in the 1990s as part of its “Common Sense Revolution.” The centerpiece of the Liberal budget was a two-year public-sector wage freeze. When the Liberals subsequently imposed contracts by legislative fiat on the province’s public school teachers that froze pay, eliminated bankable sick days, and other concessions, the NDP feigned opposition.

However, no sooner did the Liberals replace Premier Dalton McGuinty with Kathleen Wynne, one of his longtime cabinet ministers, than the NDP and unions signaled that they were eager to resume their close collaboration with the Liberals and would keep sustaining them in office in exchange for a handful of modest new spending initiatives in the next budget.

To provide the unions and social democrats with some political cover, Wynne sanctioned some minor modifications to the concessions contracts imposed on the teachers. Meanwhile, in parallel negotiations, the teachers’ unions agreed to hike their members’ pension contributions and release the government from its liabilities for future pension-plan shortfalls. Instead, these will now be made up through cuts to teachers’ pensions.

At the beginning of this month, the Liberals delivered a budget that reaffirms and broadens the austerity drive they launched in their last budget. Eliminating the budget deficit, declared Finance Minister Charles Sousa, is the “single most important” government objective. The 2013-14 budget limits public spending growth to just 1 percent, which, when population growth and inflation are taken into account, means a substantial cut in real spending. Moreover the Liberals have pledged to cap spending growth at 1 percent per annum until the budget is balanced, that is for at least the next three years.

While the budget imposes 4 percent spending cuts on most departments (Health and Education are exceptions), it contains no significant revenue raising measures. Under conditions where the government claims

This article originally appeared on : World Socialist Web Site