Drummond report crushes Ontarians’ morale–and the table

Nearly a third of his suggested cuts concern healthcare

You might as well call him Dr. No–as in, no full-day kindergarten, no more small class sizes, no pay increases for doctors, and so on.

Don Drummond, a former TD economist and chair of Ontario’s commission on public-service reform, has unveiled his much-anticipated report on how to restore the fiscal health of Canada’s largest province. Drummond’s two-volume, 532-page tome crushed Ontarians’ morale on Wednesday–as well as the table onto which Ontario Provincial Police officers unloaded copies of the report during the media lock-up this morning, according to the Toronto Star.

Drummond has predicted that Ontario’s deficit will balloon to $30.2 billion in the next seven years, unless the province manages to contain total yearly spending increases to 0.8 per cent. Nearly a third of his suggested cuts concern healthcare–unsurprising, given that public spending there has been growing at an eye-popping average annual rate of 6.3 per cent over the past five years.

But it’s not just doctors who are up in arms against the Drummond report. There’s enough in there to make just about anybody mad: The document, in fact, recommends raising the retirement age for teachers; scrapping a new 30 per cent Ontario tuition grant for undergraduate students (unless the budget for post-secondary education can be otherwise contained to 1.5 per cent annual growth); axing a 10 per cent rebate on electrical bills; closing one of the two head offices of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, as well as shutting two casinos in Niagara Falls.

“Ontario faces more severe economic and fiscal challenges than Ontarians realize,” Drummond said. And that, in all likelihood, was the main point of his report: to deliver a shocking wake-up call, as Adam Radwanski noted in The Globe and Mail last weekend.

“Our message will strike many as profoundly gloomy,” Drummond said Wednesday. “It is one that Ontarians have not heard, certainly not in the recent election campaign, but one this commission believes it must deliver.”

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