Economist Don Drummond unveils report aimed at ridding Ontario’s $16B deficit…and some of them will make you scream out loud…!

Don is recommending class sizes be increased in Ontario, in grades 4-12, and also he suggests we be CHARGED to park at Go Transit parking lots!!?  Wow!

The full details on the SUGGESTIONS (thank goodness that’s ll they are, for now) are below!

The Drummond report has outlined 360 recommendations across all public services including health care and education to help the Ontario government eliminate its $16-billion deficit.

The Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services, headed by former TD Bank economist Don Drummond, is recommending the government cap spending at 0.8 per cent or $6.3 billion a year until 2017-18.

Specifically, the report recommends spending cuts of 2.4 per cent or $4 billion a year for all other programs other than health care, education, post-secondary education and social programs.

Recommended annual spending among specific departments includes:
- 2.5 per cent or $8.4 billion a year on health care.
- 1 per cent or $1.6 billion a year on education.
- 1.5 per cent or $0.7 billion a year on post-secondary education (excluding training).
- 0.5 per cent or $0.5 billion a year on social programs.

“We really are trying our best to approach this not as a simple-minded fiscal exercise because we’ve seen the results of that before,” the former TD Bank economist said.

“We made 360 recommendations to do that. Hopefully they’ll be accepted. But if not, something else needs to be replaced to get that simultaneous outcome of the best public services at a price Ontarians can afford.”

If the government doesn’t make any spending changes, the $16-billion deficit would grow to about $30.2 billion by 2017-18 and the net public debt would reach $411.4 billion.

Government officials weren’t immediately available for comment, but finance minister Dwight Duncan will be speaking at 3:45 p.m.

To view the entire report, click here.

On health care

The commission recommends reforming the health care system to make it operate more efficiently and asks the government to develop a 20-year plan, one that shifts the focus from acute care to chronic care.

Health care is the government’s single biggest spending program. In 2010-11, Ontario spent $44.8 billion, which is 40.3 per cent of its overall spending on programs, and the cost of health care continues to rise.

Of the 105 health care recommendations, the commission is recommending:
- the Ontario government should develop and publish a plan to address health care challenges over the next 20 years.
- cap spending at 2.5 per cent a year or less through to 2017-18.
- all patients not requiring acute care should be diverted from hospitals to more appropriate care (including extensive use of home-based care).
- integrate all health services in a region including primary care physicians, acute care hospitals, long-term care and community care access centres.
- hospitals should be encouraged to specialize.
- physicians should be paid through a blend of salary and fee-for service of 70 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively.
- do more in the area of disease prevention and health promotion and should consider uploading public health to the provincial level.
- government should have greater control over pharmaceuticals; pursue setting a common price for pharmaceuticals.
- allow both public and private sectors to play a role in delivery of services.
- extensive use of IT (information technology) across the system to allow integration of different activities.

On education

On elementary and secondary education, the commission recommends the government cap spending at one per cent a year and 1.5 per cent  a year for post-secondary education, respectively.

Some of the 27 recommendations for elementary and secondary education include capping primary grade class sizes at 23 from 20, at 26 from 24.5 for Grade 4-8 and 24 from 22 for Grade 9-12. It also strongly recommends pressuring the federal government to provide funding for First Nations on-reserve education.

The commission recommends cancelling the full-day kindergarten program but the finance minister has already said earlier this week that it won’t do that.

The report added that if the government continues the implementation of the full-day kindergarten program that it should delay full implementation to 2017-18 from 2014-15. It should also reduce program costs to have one teacher for about every 20 students, which would save about $200 million in salary expenditures.

Full-day kindergarten began in September 2010 in nearly 600 schools. Another 200 schools were added last year, and some 900 more are slated for the 2012-13 school year. The report said that the costs of this program will eventually climb to $1.5 billion a year.

On post-secondary education, the report recommends spending 1.5 per cent a year until 2017-18.

Some of the 30 recommendations include reshaping student financial assistance, including the newly announced 30 per cent Off Ontario Tuition grant to target more low-income students as well as phasing out provincial tuition and education tax credits to invest in upfront grants.

Others recommendations include having institutions reward excellent teachers as is currently done for researchers, that they measure outcomes

On transit

The report recommends reviewing the roles and operations of public and private mass transit service providers in the GTA and the Hamilton area.

It also suggests GO Transit begin charging for parking in its lots, like the TTC did recently.

On utilities

Drummond recommends increasing water rates homeowners pay to recover the full cost of water and wastewater services. What’s more, the report recommends eliminating the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit “as quickly as possible.” The energy benefit is the province’s largest rate subsidy.

On social programs

The commission recommends spending on social programs, such as Social Assistance, Child Welfare and the Ontario Child Benefit, be capped at 0.5 per cent a year until 2017-18.

The government should move towards a fully integrated benefits system that simplifies client access, centralizes income testing and payment delivery and automates the application process.

“Containing growth to 0.5 per cent annually would mean reducing total social assistance spending by over $2 billion per year by 2017-18 relative to what it would have been,” the report said.

Furthermore, the report said further reforms may be required.

Other programs

The commission is reporting that the government lower annual spending for all other public services such as employment and training services, immigration and infrastructure by 2.4 per cent until 2017-18.

The full report is on the ministry of finance website…

The Drummond Commission was established last spring by the McGuinty government to help the government balance its budget by 2017-18 without privatizing health care and education nor increasing taxes.

How are you feeling with these recommendations?  Anything you’d like to say to the government?