The St. Catharines Standard carried two stories reporting that Dalton McGuinty's Liberals are set to cut health care.
One story was by Antonella Artuso and Jonathan Jenkins, headlined "Grits bring in cost-cutting consultants" (Oct.23, 2009):
"Pinned under a deficit of almost $25 billion, the Dalton McGuinty government has secretly hired cost-cutting consultants to go over the public drug plan for seniors and welfare recipients, Sun Media has learned.
The contract with McKinsey and Co. was so under wraps that Health Ministry officials initially denied its existence, and then when pressed refused to release the consultants' recommendations or the cost of the contract to Sun Media.
Health Minister Deb Matthews later overruled her staff and allowed the contract's $750,000 price tag to be revealed.
Details of the contract came on the same day Finance Minister Dwight Duncan -- confirming a Sun Media exclusive -- said the province's deficit is now $24.7 billion. That's double the previous record of $12.4 billion under Bob Rae.
But despite the fact Ontario is spending nearly $3 million more than it collects every single hour, Duncan said he has no intention of turning the stimulus and infrastructure taps off just yet.
"I don't think anyone wants deficits, but they are the appropriate tool today," Duncan said.
"We're coming through a downturn in the global economy and we've had to spend a lot of money to help our families and communities through a difficult time.
"When we're through this, we will need to look at restraint."
That could certainly explain why the government would hire a firm such as McKinsey and Co., specialists in budget trimming advice who caused a furor in the United Kingdom last month after they recommended sacking 10% of the National Health Service staff, or 137,000 people, in a leaked confidential report .
Ivan Langrish, a spokesman for Matthews, said the company was hired to do a cost-containment analysis of the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan, which experiences annual budget increases well beyond inflation.
"And they're certainly experts in their field," Langrish said.
Results of the contract are "confidential," he said.
The recession has hammered Ontario tax revenues, now expected to come in nearly $6 billion less than expected.
At the same time, the province has had to spend freely -- $4 billion for the auto sector bailout alone, plus billions more for infrastructure, skills retraining, extra welfare payments and H1N1 vaccines, to preserve jobs and keep the economy moving, Duncan said.
That will change, though, when Ontario's economy starts to grow, he said, refusing to offer any specifics.
"I would urge against drawing any conclusions on that. We're going to take a long hard look at how we deliver services," Duncan said.
"This is not going to be a repeat of the late '90s and it's not going to be a repeat of the early '90s. I heard (NDP Leader Andrea) Horwath saying yesterday there's huge cuts coming. Well, there's not."
But Horwath said she's convinced the government plans to get back in balance by hacking public services -- while continuing with high-priced consultant contracts and corporate tax cuts.
"A million dollars a day flows to consultants," she said. "It's shelled out to consultants like candy at Halloween.
"The McGuinty government is ignoring the challenges facing the people of this province. They're asked to pay more and yet they get less."
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, MPP for Niagara West-Glanbrook, said the new deficit is equivalent to $13,500 for each household in the province, and the McGuinty government has added a total of $65.2 billion in new debt since taking office in 2003.
Growth of the deficit
Budget prediction (March 2009): $14.1 billion
Update (June 2009): $18.5 billion Fall Economic Statement (October 2009): $24.7 billion
Previous record deficit (Bob Rae government, 1993): $12.4 billion"
Another St.Catharines Standard story was by Maria Babbage, headlined "Documents suggest Ontario hospitals will see funding drop", (Oct.24, 2009):
"Critics are questioning Premier Dalton McGuinty's pledge to help cash-strapped hospitals in tough economic times amid new figures that suggest their operating budgets will be cut next year.
Documents obtained by The Canadian Press suggest that funding for hospital operations will drop by $181 million in 2010-11 even though the province's regional health authorities are expected to get more money.
The 14 health authorities were set up by the governing Liberals three years ago to make local health-care decisions and dispense government funding to Ontario's 159 public hospitals.
The Local Health Integration Networks are projecting an operating budget of $21.19 billion in 2010-11, up from $21.15 billion in the current fiscal year ending March 31, 2010. Operation of the LHINs alone is expected to cost $65 million this year.
But funding for hospital operations is expected to drop to $14.1 billion from $14.3 billion during the same period, according to LHIN documents. Operational funding doesn't include money for nursing homes or other health-care initiatives, such as addiction programs.
The figures were included in a LHIN chart of funding targets over a three-year period. The chart, which also suggests that funding will be frozen at those levels in 2011-12, was revised in May.
It's another piece of bad news for Ontario hospitals, more than a third of which were bleeding red ink last year.
The Ontario Hospital Association said the funding targets in the document are "incomplete information" and do not reflect what the final numbers will be.
The chart doesn't include additional money that would be provided to adjust for inflation, reduce wait-times or cover the costs of expanded hospital facilities, said Anthony Dale, OHA's vice-president of policy and public affairs.
"This is not at all an accurate portrayal of what the funding situation is going to be for hospitals in the 2010-11 year," he added. "No one knows that yet and it may not be known for many months."
Last week, McGuinty said hospitals would get some help as they struggle to balance their books, but they shouldn't expect funding to be as high as in previous years.
He was responding to a Canadian Press report that 61 of Ontario's 159 public hospitals couldn't balance their books in the last fiscal year ending March 31, amounting to a $154-million shortfall.
Ontario hospitals receive about 85 per cent of their funding from the province and are forbidden from running deficits by law, but many received waivers because they agreed to balance their books by the spring.
Health Minister Deb Matthews was not available to comment on the funding figures despite repeated requests made over two days.
Her staff cancelled a promised interview and instead released a brief statement saying the chart was a planning document only and that the final funding figures have not yet been finalized."
Note this part in Babbage's report, where she wrote:
"Health Minister Deb Matthews was not available to comment on the funding figures despite repeated requests made over two days."
The monopolist minister ISN'T AVAILABLE?
WHERE THE FLICK IS SHE?
The secretive Liberal demagogues are cutting funding, yet, they still forcibly hold Ontario patients prisoner in McGuinty's no-choice health care monopoly.
Will the St.Catharines Standard bother, for the record, to contact the local Liberal health care monopolist, Good Ole Jim Bradley, for his response?
Ha ha ha - nope: that never happened! The St.Catharines Standard finds Jim Bradley just soooo Liberal-lickin' good that they can't bring themselves to actually question him!