Premier Wynne is a rigid ideologue

She believes in taking on debt to stimulate growth in the economy.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne claims she is a pragmatist, and not driven by a single set of guiding principles or firm views. In addressing the Canada 2020 conference — an ideas conference, hosted by a left-leaning think tank — Wynne sang the praises of the Liberal party for “rejecting strict ideology in favour of meaningful and pragmatic solutions.” Wynne said ideologies are rigid and restricting. She even accused those who criticize her recent plan for a mandatory, government-controlled Ontario pension plan of being, “motivated exclusively by small-government or market fundamentalist ideology.”

Sun Media columnist John Robson aptly called Wynne an idealist without any ideals, while reminding the premier of the lessons that can be learned (and mistakes avoided) by studying history. Robson is right. Whether she cares to it admit, Wynne is an ideologue. To her, the answer to every problem is more government.

That’s not pragmatic, that’s blind devotion. Her plan for a new Ontario pension scheme, for instance, comes from her belief that the government can take care of individuals better than they can care for themselves. She blames companies for not providing the same kind of workplace pensions as the lucrative ones received by government workers (private companies would go bankrupt if they did), and claims Ontario workers are not saving enough on their own.

The premier also talks like an idealist. She has said repeatedly that she governs from “the activist centre”. In her throne speech following the recent election, she said, “government should be a force for good in people’s lives and it should be active where it is appropriate.” Of course by where “appropriate”, she means everywhere.

Her ideological roots are even deeper than they appear. One of the defining features of her government so far has been its commitment not to cut spending. Despite the $275 billion in accumulated net debt — half of which came from her government and her predecessor, premier Dalton McGuinty — and a $12.5 billion operating deficit in 2014, Wynne has dug in her heels on spending.

She believes in taking on debt to stimulate growth in the economy.

A practical person would see that this plan is not working. After six years and hundreds of billions of dollars wasted, Ontario’s debt clock continues to tick upwards, with government decisions harming, not helping, Ontario’s economy. Whether Wynne realizes it or not, her decision to take on more stimulus spending, even though the economy is now growing, is an ideological one.

Recessions and economic slowdowns used to be met with prudence and restraint. Folks would tighten their belts, save what they could and work hard to create new opportunities. In the 1920s, that changed thanks to an English bureaucrat named John Maynard Keynes. Keynes’ theory of stimulus spending gave politicians a licence to spend during recessions, and changed the role of government vis-a-vis the economy.

But even Keynes recognized the role of ideas in politics, and believed every politician was influenced by economists. Keynes famously said, “practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” In this case, Keynes — whose theory of government stimulus has failed time and again — is the defunct economist and Kathleen Wynne, his ideological follower.