OPINION: 3 dumb things government has done with your money

George Mathewson

1 – Closed Hiawatha Slots:

Ontario’s Liberal government was pilloried for its $1.1-billion gas plant boondoggle. Equally stupid was closing Sarnia’s Hiawatha Slots.

Hiawatha Slots was a well-run, bustling attraction that provided a fun night out for residents and drew crowds of U.S. visitors to Sarnia. It provided a regular paycheque to 140 people, helped the adjacent Hiawatha Horse Park and Entertainment Centre stay viable, and added more than $1 million annually to city coffers.

Hiawatha wasn’t losing money. In fact, it was generating $29 million annually. But the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation said it was “underperforming” and closed an important Sarnia attraction to “improve” Ontario’s gaming industry.

Only government could axe a popular, successful, job-creating attraction and call it an improvement.

 

2 – The Donohue Bridge:

OK, it might be a little unfair to blame politicians for what is essentially an engineering debacle. But the fact remains that Sarnia and senior government have poured money into our own “Bridge of Sighs” for five years now.

To date, it has cost taxpayers more per metre – and taken longer – to fix the stumpy span of the Donohue Bridge connecting Sarnia and the Chemical Valley than it did to build the majestic Blue Water Bridge between two countries.

Earlier this year, the original repair estimate of $2.5 million ballooned to $7.2 million, and only the southbound lanes and substructure are done.

 

Drive Clean:

This was a good idea, once upon a time. When then-Ontario premier Mike Harris introduced the Drive Clean Program in 1999 old clunkers were spewing out hundreds of thousands of tonnes of smog-creating nitrogen oxides and other pollutants.

But times, like cars, have changed. Vehicle emissions have declined so dramatically they are no longer among the major domestic contributors of smog in Ontario.

And according to former auditor general Jim McCarter, 75% of vehicle emission reductions since then have nothing to do with Drive Clean, such as tighter manufacturing standards on emission-control technologies, federal requirements for cleaner fuels, and ongoing retirement of old “blue smoke” vehicles.

What hasn’t changed is the mandatory $35 (plus tax) test required every two years for vehicles seven years or older.  And the $17.50 (plus tax) for a re-test following failure.

British Columbia pioneered emission testing in Canada but that province is phasing out its program, saying it has outlived its usefulness.

In short, Ontario’s Drive Clean is a bureaucratic cash grab that should have its tail pipe plugged.