Premier Kathleen Wynne and her veritable army of Liberal cronies passed the Ontario budget today, but nobody seems to be talking about it. There are no major newspaper stories, no major segments on national or provincial broadcasts, and no op-eds. I don’t even think crazed podcast hosts are talking about it, and they’ll talk about anything.
The budget is a huge slap in the face to the other parties, who were decimated in an election that can only be described as a twisted episode of The Biggest Loser (in this case, contestants were loathed politicians instead of individuals trying to lose weight). Wynne presented the exact same budget that Wynne presented before the election that caused the other parties to demand another attempt to climb to the top (spoiler: they lost). Despite the promise of a balanced budget, its increase in spending, the cuts from unspecified places, and the political hackery, nobody is talking about this budget. Why not? Partly because it’s not a story any more, partly because Wynne won and the others lost, but mostly because journalists have already covered this budget four times. They covered it once, when it was first presented, once when it was rejected and caused an election, once, as the so-called catalyst, during the election campaign, and again when Wynne stuck her tongue out at Horwath by presenting the same budget 10 days ago.
Well, today, Wynne’s Liberals passed an incredibly controversial budget, and nobody is talking about it. The story has been beaten so far to death that they are going to get away with passing a budget that the media otherwise would have been up in arms about. Hopefully, they learn a lesson from this; if you do the same thing four times, the media won’t be mad at you the fifth time. Maybe that means Rob Ford can afford another scandal, or that Mike Duffy only needs to have four more abandoned children to not matter to the media anymore.
When a federal budget passes, an instant flood of news pieces break down the details, such as what budget cuts matter most, what programs are getting boosted, etc. When a provincial budget passes, local papers immediately begin to evaluate whether or not it actually matters to anyone in their community. Law firms write briefings for their clients in order to feel important.
This time, none of the usual hustle and bustle will occur. We all know what’s in the budget. We all know what to hate, what to love, and what not to care about. Which means the media has no need to tell us. The question is, do people really remember what’s in a budget they read a news story about months ago? Since most of us have the political attention span of a goldfish, probably not.
Whether you think the budget is a work of policy genius or whether you want to burn it in the fireplace, the fact that we’re not reading about it the day it passes is a bit troubling. Budgets decide what money our hospitals get, how much tuition costs, and whether or not I can find a new loophole for a tax break. Today, you won’t read about a budget. Unless you’re reading this, in which case you’re reading about reading about a budget, which may be worse.