Would the PCs slash health spending even further?

The Ontario PCs have released a new video with finance critic Peter Shurman suggesting the Liberals cannot balance their budget on schedule by restraining health care to 2 per cent and education to 1 per cent.

The timing appears a bit off. The video was released just a day after it was revealed the deficit will be $5 billion lower than expected, coming in a $9.8 billion rather than $14.8 billion for 2012-13.

It’s almost laughable the Tories are still using Don Drummond’s ridiculous projections that we are on our way to a $30 billion deficit when the numbers are clearly heading in the opposite direction.

Unfortunately Shurman doesn’t really provide the detailed answer to his mythical problem, although ominously he suggests a plan of action and the “courage to implement it” is what’s needed. That courage, so we are led to believe, includes more tax cuts.

He complains that the government’s spending plans are only known for three years. That means there are no budget details beyond 2015-16. To Shurman, this is his big “aha!” moment.

So do the Tories intend to give us detailed five-year budgets? Not likely. Shurman will not even tell us what they would cut this year should they be given the keys to the Premier’s office, although Hudak repeatedly says more vaguely he’ll cut the jobs of public sector workers and reduce incomes of working people by undermining their unions.

Remarkably he does this while claiming the PCs are about jobs and prosperity. Given rising inequality, it is likely the PC’s idea about jobs and prosperity are intended for two different groups in society. The low wage jobs go to one group, the prosperity to another. But we digress.

The Tories have already promised to cut the Community Care Access Centres and the LHINs and leave the local funding and administration questions to a select number of unelected hospital boards. The Tories evidently think that it will be the hospitals themselves that will be willing to shed their own services to community-based agencies with no thought to what such displacements will mean within their own structures or budgets.

More worrying is what the PC’s magic number will be for health care. If Shurman is implying that 2 per cent is unworkable, what do the Tories have in mind?

To stand still this is what health care needs right now: 1.2 per cent for inflation. 0.8 to 1 per cent to compensate for additional demand related to aging. 1 per cent for population growth. That means we need between 3 and 3.2 per cent simply to keep things moving.

If 2 per cent is too much, what are the Tories really willing to shed? Hudak’s PCs vow to bring the budget into balance by 2016-17 — a year before the Liberals. This would suggest deep cuts to make that happen.

Add in substantial tax cuts that would further erode government revenues, and things start to look really grim (unless you are among the last of the true believers in trickle down economics).

Hudak says he can save $800 million by cutting the CCACs and LHINs and redistribute the money to front line care. Clearly he’s dreaming in Technicolor. Amid recent stories of private sector failures, including the diluted chemotherapy drugs, the public is likely not in the mood to hear about less oversight, especially when it involves their health care. Work the CCACs have taken on, such as hospital discharge planning, would likely revert to the hospitals. It wouldn’t be reflected in savings that can be applied elsewhere.

So what is Hudak and Shurman really willing to put up with? Longer waits for surgeries? Ambulances circling the City of Toronto looking for an open ER? Ontarians struggling to find a doctor?

If we really are going back to the future, we should remember what that looked like in health care. It won’t be pretty.

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