What's worse, a government that breaks a dumb promise or a government that implements one? I would have been happy if Stephen Harper had broken his very dumb promise to cut 1 per cent of the GST. I'm okay with Dalton McGuinty breaking his promise not to raise taxes after the Mike Harris wrecking crew saddled the Libs with a $5 billion deficit.
Tax has always been the four-letter word politicians don't use in polite company. But after last week's leaders debate, that may be changing. During the televised showdown, we heard McGuinty not once but several times refuse to say that he would repeal a tax. That's new.
Most pols are only too happy to out-slash the other guy, but it has always been a head-scratcher when political parties say they can both cut taxes and improve services. Neo-cons used this canard throughout the 90s, but today it's only John Tory and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation who believe it. The rest of us aren't buying.
Pundits say McGuinty was bruised during last week's debate, but it seemed to me that his opponents were the disingenuous ones and that he was only stating the obvious: in refusing to back off from the health tax he implemented shortly after assuming office in 2003, he was essentially saying that if you want a good health care system, you need to fund it.
Parenthetically, you can hear echoes of this new tax dynamic in the fiscal farce at City Hall, where right- wing whingers grow apoplectic at the thought of raising taxes but never suggest credible ways to deal with the city's revenue shortfall other than to have bureaucrats spend less money on coffee and paper clips.
Politicians are always breaking promises, and I don't think anyone expects otherwise. Yes, McGuinty, with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation holding an electoral gun to his head, signed the Taxpayer Protection Promise. It's a short pledge not to raise taxes without the express consent of the voters of the province and not to run deficits. (I'd like to ask Fibber, the CTF mascot with the 16-inch Pinocchio nose who's following the Lib leader around, if he'd be hounding McGuinty if the Libs had broken the second promise but not the first.)
This isn't to let the McGuinty government off the hook. Nanticoke is still burning coal, new nukes seem to be a foregone conclusion, money goes out the door to Liberal-connected groups without proper accounting, and urban sprawl gobbles up more farmland, creating the need for more roads and cars.
It is a brutal record on so many counts, yet John Tory's promises of scrubbers on smokestacks, funding faith-based education and repealing the health tax are far worse than more of the same.
If the Progressive Conservatives do manage to score a minority government, I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that John Tory breaks a few of his dumb promises, too.