Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of the Financial Council in Ontario government.
Last month, I said that fixing Ontario's balance sheet was what kept me awake at night. After 15 years of Liberal mismanagement, our government is working hard to reduce the provincial debt worth 347 billion dollars while making life more affordable for all individuals, families and businesses. We are determined to meet this challenge by using the Autumn 2018 Economic Statement as a solution to monitor public spending while also creating a profitable growth strategy for the province.
Making responsible decisions about budgeting, living according to your abilities, and saving can change your life. The same healthy habits around personal expenses also apply to public spending.
During my career in the private sector, I had the opportunity to assess many successful companies. I repeatedly see organizations with consistent and sustainable income that have the highest accuracy and transparency in their budgeting process.
This simple practice must be a guiding principle in every financial strategy, and our government is committed to achieving the same accuracy and transparency to achieve fiscal balance.
Here are two key takeaways that have traveled with me from Bay Street to Main Street which I believe will help change public services, maintain core programs and build better Ontario:
1.) Discipline changes into habits.
To be successful in any career requires discipline and hard work. My career has forced me to have a structure in place that creates productivity and efficiency practices.
In government, our long-term goal is to help restore trust and accountability to provincial finance, and to foster a strong and stable provincial economy to ensure prosperity for all. Institutionalizing broad program cuts is not the answer – they can achieve short-term benefits, but in the long run the Dean will be left behind. So far, the province has saved $ 3.2 billion in program costs by seeking efficiency and we must apply rigor and transparency to every decision we make to bring us closer to achieving fiscal balances.
2.) Invest in important matters
Work and financial independence are essential for self-determination and your own freedom. The best way to achieve this is to start saving early and regularly – personal finance is one of the most important skills in life that affects everyday life.
Ontario interest payments on debt are now the fourth largest line item in the provincial budget. That means taxpayers spend around $ 1.4 million on interest every hour – significant costs that are unfair and unsustainable.
Since being elected in June, we have taken action to modernize the government. Small steps and keystone habits lead to changes that have a big impact, and we have seen the results. For example, I recently announced that the Financial Council Secretariat will cut paper for meetings and briefings, with projected savings of $ 26,200 each year. Paperless initiatives everywhere throughout the Public Service will save millions of dollars and reduce 166,500 pages of paper.
Knowing how to manage money is not enough. Like families, governments cannot spend more time than we take – we must lead by example and make smart financial decisions on behalf of the people we serve. We were chosen not only to fulfill balance sheet commitments, but also to ensure vital programs that people rely on to meet their needs.
Citizens may not see numbers in the provincial report. However, they feel the financial impact of being mismanaged can have their daily lives. By making responsible financial decisions around public expenditure, we can take care of those who are the most vulnerable and need our compassion the most.
The point is this: We have a rare opportunity to change public finance and that we cannot waste. We will continue to place Ontario's fiscal home in order and focus on serving the province through a cultural transformation of the government.
If done correctly, we will see Ontario being more sustainable for current and future generations.
Peter Bethlenfalvy is MPP for Pickering-Uxbridge and President of the Ontario Financial Council.