Ontario Premier Declares Fire Sale on Crown Assets to Balance Budget
Above: Some have accused Dalton McGuinty of being two-faced for proposing the 'Common Sense Liquidation'
TORONTO, ON (SP) — Faced with a staggering budget deficit of $5.6 billion, Ontario's newly-minted Premier, Dalton McGuinty, has pledged to sell off at least $7 billion worth of Crown assets within the next fiscal year in order to balance the budget while still keeping all of his lofty campaign promises.
McGuinty says that he decided upon this plan of action, which he is calling the 'Common Sense Liquidation', after considering how beneficial the sale of Highway 407 to a consortium of private investors had been for his predecessors. "Sure, selling the 407 might be perceived as a bit of a quick fix, given that the amount of toll revenue it will ultimately generate will vastly exceed the purchase price, but it did help to finance the massive tax cuts which brought the Tories consecutive majority governments," said McGuinty.
Above: The sale of the 407 for $3 billion had the Tories laughing all the way to the bank
Therefore, McGuinty's first order of business will be to sell several of the province's remaining highways. In fact, McGuinty revealed that Standard Parking Ltd. has already signed a letter of intent to purchase the Don Valley Parkway from the province in order to turn it into an enormous parking lot. "It's a win-win situation for everyone involved," said McGuinty. "People are constantly complaining that there isn't enough parking in Toronto, but that will no longer be the case thanks to the Don Valley Parking Lot. At the same time, I'm sure that most commuters would agree that traffic is usually so heavy on the DVP, it might as well be a parking lot."
With respect to the highways that Ontario will not be selling, at least not at the present time, McGuinty is following a precedent established by football stadiums and hockey arenas throughout North America by licensing the names of these major thoroughfares to corporate sponsors. Hence, Highway 11 (a.k.a. Yonge St.) will soon be known as Highway 7-11. Meanwhile, the Gardiner Expressway is about to be renamed the Ceramic Expressway thanks to the generous patronage of the George R. Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art. "For years, the Gardiner has been in desperate need of resurfacing," said McGuinty. "Now, thanks to our strategic alliance with the museum, the entire expressway will be covered with beautiful, intricately hand-crafted ceramic tiles. I expect it to become a major tourist attraction."
Above: A sample of what the resurfaced George R. Gardiner Ceramic Expressway will look like
McGuinty surprised many when he announced that one of the assets being sold is Pearson International Airport, which developers would like to turn into the world's largest shopping mall. "For everyone who says that Ontario's economy will suffer without the presence of a major international airport, consider that we're already on the verge of becoming a country without a national airline," said McGuinty. "Hence, it seems to me that having an airport isn't all that important. Moreover, now that the Dorval Airport has been renamed after Pierre Trudeau, I think it's entirely unnecessary to have two Canadian airports named after former Prime Ministers."
McGuinty has attempted to alleviate some of the concerns expressed about the adverse impact that the sale of these Crown assets could have on the environment by recently imposing a freeze on all development in the ecologically-sensitive Oak Ridges Moraine, north of Toronto. However, he did acknowledge that the land had been leased to the Toronto-based Centre for the Wrongfully Convicted, which plans to use it to stage numerous seminars and conferences. Pursuant to the terms of the lease, the land will now be known as the Guy Paul Moraine.
Perhaps the most controversial of McGuinty's new privatization initiatives is the sale of Queen's Park to the Golden Griddle, which intends to transform the provincial legislature into the restaurant chain's flagship franchise. While legislative sessions will still be held in the building soon to be known as 'Pancake Park', members of the public seated in the gallery will now be able to enjoy waffles, eggs benedict and French toast while also watching the democratic process in action. All of the items on the Golden Griddle's regular menu will be available at Pancake Park, but there will also be politically-oriented specials, such as filibuster Fridays, when customers can consume 'all you can eat' pancakes for $9.99.
Above: A Liberal caucus meeting at Pancake Park
Political partisans will also have the option of ordering items affiliated with each of the major political parties. The Liberal section takes up most of the space on the menu, and while McGuinty had promised to freeze the prices of all menu items for at least three years, it's no longer certain that it will be economically viable for him to keep that promise.
McGuinty's favourite item on the new menu consists of a generous portion of boiled corn (the menu calls for precisely 77 kernels), served with artichoke hearts that have been sautéed in a red wine sauce. The name of this new delicacy is 'grits with bleeding hearts'.
The Tories have refused to endorse the new menu, claiming that the food is entirely unfit for human consumption. "I wouldn't even consider feeding it to an evil reptilian kitten eater from another planet," said Tory leader Ernie Eves. Nevertheless, McGuinty took the liberty of placing items on the menu which he felt captured the spirit of the present state of the Tory caucus, such as burnt toast and sour grapes. The Tories have shown their disapproval of this gesture by referring to the former as 'freedom toast'.
The NDP have not been afforded their own place on the menu on the basis that they no longer have official party status. In order to protest this perceived injustice, NDP MPP Marilyn Churley has legally changed her name to Marilyn Churley-BLT.
Above: MPP Marilyn Churley-BLT
McGuinty is undeterred by critics who suggest that the very notion of Pancake Park is an affront to parliamentary tradition. "Queen's Park does have a very proud history, but it's not like politics is our national pastime," said McGuinty. "Consider the present status of the two most historically significant buildings in hockey history, Maple Leaf Gardens and the Montreal Forum. If Loblaws can turn the Gardens into a supermarket and Famous Players can convert the Forum into a movie multiplex, why should anyone have a problem with the transformation of our legislature into a friendly, family-oriented restaurant?"
All facets of the Common Sense Liquidation have been met with great hostility by opposition MPPs at Pancake Park. "I find it rather ironic that Premier McGuinty has constantly compared me to a used car salesman, yet he's the one who endeavoring to sell off Crown assets like they were just used car parts," said Eves. "Essentially, he's turned the government of Ontario into a multi-billion dollar chop shop."
Despite such bitter opposition to his platform, McGuinty promises that he will sell many more Crown assets over the duration of his mandate. "I travelled the province extensively during the recent election campaign, and wherever I went, the one thing that almost everyone I spoke to wanted was less government; much, much less," he said. "By the time I'm finished implementing the Common Sense Liquidation, that is precisely what this province will have."