MPP Merrilee Fullerton on the Province's Finances

Published on April 04, 2019

Here is an one-on-one interview with MPP Merrilee Fullerton on her views of the Province's finances. 

Next Thursday, April 11, the Ontario PC Government will be announcing its first budget. In advance of the Ontario Budget, the Kanata-Carleton PC Association interviewed our local MPP Merrilee Fullerton regarding the Government’s fiscal policies and her own beliefs about being a fiscal conservative. Here is a transcript of the interview.

 

So, Merrilee, what do you expect next week when the Ontario Government delivers its first budget, what will be the first PC budget in Ontario in a very long time?

     Budget day will be an important day for Ontarians. We were elected last June, in part, because Ontarians recognized there needed to be a change in approach to the provincial finances. The Ontario Government couldn’t continue to spend with reckless abandon. This PC Government is committed to restoring a sense of fiscal responsibility. The Finance Minister has stated many times he is committed to restoring trust, transparency and accountability in Ontario's finances.

     After 15 years of deficits, the Liberal Governments of McGuinty and Wynne left a deep hole for us to climb out of. Ontarians are now saddled to pay more-than-$1-billion-a-month on debt service charges and this has placed our Province in a difficult position to fund the services and programs Ontarians have all come to expect from its government. With the tremendous waste of taxpayers’ dollars that we have uncovered from the Wynne Government, it is clear that in Ontario we don’t have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem. I must say that my colleagues, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli and Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy, are up to the job to fix that.

     Ontario has the largest debt of any sub-national state. What does that mean? Well, here is the damaging part of having to manage the debt load. Today, we spend more on debt interest than we do on post-secondary education, or on child and youth services. That’s lost opportunity for Ontarians – and if we continued with this type of Liberal deficit spending it would get much worse for future generations.  

     So, we know we must turn things around. But like an ocean liner, it will take time to turn this ship. We are finding new efficiencies and savings with our review of programs and services, and we are committed to spending Ontarians’ money more responsibly. Next week, Ontarians are going to see the first attempt at our PC Government setting a new course for the Provinces finances. It will be an important day, and I believe it will be a good day. We are focused on putting Ontario’s fiscal house back in order.

 

So, what specifically might we see in this budget?

     You will see a new set of targets for balancing our books. Vic Fedeli has stated he will be pragmatic in balancing the budget in a responsible and sustainable manner. So, look for a specific date in the future where we will commit to balancing the budget – not some far off date like the federal government gave us; what was it 2040? There will be measures to create and protect jobs for Ontario workers. Our caucus has talked a lot about putting the people at the centre of everything we do in government. We need sustainable public services and programs. We want to develop world-class health care and a better education system. We want, in the future, to always be able to give a hand up to those in Ontario who need a helping hand. The Finance Minister has already spoken about tax relief, a progressive tax cut for low-income workers. So, this all begins with a responsible approach to financing and you will hear Vic Fedeli elaborate on these things next week. Tune in on April 11th for the details!

 

What do you see as our greatest financial challenge in Ontario?

     Without a doubt it is the more-than-$1-billion-a-month debt payments that we must pay on the debt run up by the previous Liberal Governments. That $14 billion a year could be going to better health care, our roads and infrastructure, or education. Instead it is going to interest payments.  

     I am a firm believer that with every challenge there is an opportunity. Premier Doug Ford and our PC Government, today, is sending a clear message out to the rest of Canada and the world that “Ontario is open for business.” We are doing things differently from the previous Liberal Governments. We are providing a sense of certainty with the Ontario economy that our business community can trust and international investors can trust. You know, governments don’t create jobs and economic growth, but they do provide the environment for business to create jobs, take risks and grow. We are fostering that certainty in our economy that will allow businesspeople to make the decisions to grow instead of worrying about the next tax or next set of restrictive regulations. We aim to foster the climate in which businesspeople can prosper.

     And I’d like to say this about our Finance Minister and my colleagues. Vic Fedeli is a very thoughtful, successful businessman. In fact, we have many successful businesspeople, professionals and many learned financial and economic minds in our caucus – all contributing to the ideas necessary to correct the financial trajectory Ontario has been on. I trust we will provide that certainty and solid footing for our business community and for workers throughout Ontario to have good, promising employment prospects, today and in the future.  

 

This sounds very promising that the PC Government can turn Ontario fortunes around. Tell us, how would you describe your own personal beliefs about finances?  

     I am a fiscal conservative. In saying that I believe that it is sound fiscal management that allows government to act with compassion. It is fiscal responsibility and sound fiscal management that create the potential for government to have the resources available to provide for people at their most vulnerable times, to contribute to the common good, and to create opportunity for all.

     I believe at the core of conservatism there is a strong promise of a better tomorrow and the potential of people to contribute to our future opportunities. I am very pleased to be a member of the Treasury Board and in Cabinet and have direct input on the direction of our Province. Important social programs like health care and education require steady and sustained government funding. In Ontario over the past decade we have witnessed many billions of tax dollars wasted. We must move forward in a more thoughtful way to avoid wasteful policies and programs that damage the ability of government to serve its people.

     During last year’s campaign, and for a few years now, I have heard people say that our Province is past the tipping point, and the mountain of debt is too high to recover from. But I say that with determination, hard work, and a sound fiscal approach we will have a promising future in Ontario. That is what is driving the PC Government’s agenda at Queen’s Park. I am so pleased to be part of a team that is committed to greater fiscal responsibility today, so that Ontarians can have hope for opportunity and quality of life now and in the future, for themselves and the next generation of Ontarians.

 

In the campaign, you spoke about the values your family passed along. Can you, perhaps, comment on your personal perspective to fiscal responsibility?

     Yes, my family’s approach to finances, and to work, and contribution to community has profoundly grounded me with a sense of responsibility. I grew up in a family with a waste not, want not approach where working hard was valued and where resources managed respectfully meant having opportunity to create a good life. I married a hard-working, thoughtful husband and we raised our children with a work ethic and sense of responsibility to your workplace and to your community. At the same time, with my father and mother, and in raising our own children, I believe we have a commitment to provide a helping hand to those around us. We do that as a family and as part of the larger community. Conservatism can be fiscally responsible and compassionate. I have come by it honestly as this conservatism was learned and now is taught in my home.

 

Thank you Merrilee for sharing your thoughts on Ontario’s fiscal situation and your own personal views. We look forward to the Ontario Budget address next week.