Finance Minister Dwight Duncan dropped a bombshell in my column last week when he warned that some ministry budgets will be slashed by one-third — part of the sweeping restraint and restructuring exercise now underway.
The full extent of those cutbacks has largely escaped public notice because they are buried in the deceptively cruel calculus of the coming budget:
To protect health care (allowed to rise 3 per cent) and education (1 per cent), all other departments must take a hit. That’s the only way to bend the cost curve to a 1 per cent overall budget increase, allowing Ontario to wipe out its $16 billion deficit by 2017-18.
“You’re talking about real cuts of upwards of 33 per cent in some ministries,” Duncan told me. “You’re right — some of them are going to be enormously controversial, politically.”
And one controversy begets another.
Wednesday’s gloomy fall economic statement will make clear that the worst is yet to come.