Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty made many promises during the election campaign that brought him to office last fall. He has already broken several of them. But the one he vowed never to break, the one he repeated as a mantra, was that his government would not raise taxes.
In yesterday's budget, he did just that, taking a leaf out of the book of one-term U.S. president George ("Read my lips") Bush more than a decade ago. Mr. McGuinty has come up with as inoffensive a new tax as possible. It's called a health premium and is being imposed to help cover soaring health costs and planned upgrades. But it's still a tax increase, and not even Finance Minister Greg Sorbara tried to pretend otherwise. "I'm aware of the commitment," he said of the Liberal campaign vow. "We're not able to keep that commitment."
The former Conservative government put the Liberals in an economic box with its dismal record of fiscal management and its unconscionable pretense that the books were nearly balanced. But the political box the Liberals find themselves in is of Mr. McGuinty's own making. The main problem is not so much that he broke a foolish promise but that he made it in the first place. It was a wholly unnecessary election ploy. And now it has fallen by the wayside, like other Liberal pledges exposed to the harsh light of fiscal reality.