Transcript: Meet Ontario's New Finance Minister | Jan 05, 2021

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and black tie.

A caption on screen reads "Meet Ontario's new Finance Minister. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says ONTARIO HAS A NEW MINISTER OF FINANCE AND, AS YOU KNOW, IT'S HAPPENED FOR THE ODDEST OF REASONS. FORMER MINISTER ROD PHILLIPS TOOK A DECEMBER VACATION TO ST. BARTS IN THE SOUTHEASTERN CARIBBEAN, DESPITE A GOVERNMENT DIRECTIVE FOR ALL OF US TO STAY HOME OVER THE HOLIDAYS. EVEN WORSE, HIS OFFICE TWEETED OUT PICTURES OF PHILLIPS APPARENTLY HARD AT WORK IN HIS RIDING, WHICH CRITICS HAVE LABELLED A DECEPTION. PHILLIPS RESIGNED LAST WEEK, AND PETER BETHLENFALVY, WHO ALREADY HAD ONE OF CABINET'S MOST IMPORTANT FINANCIAL JOBS AS PRESIDENT OF THE TREASURY BOARD, WELL, HE'S NOW ADDING THE BIG JOB AS FINANCE MINISTER. PETER BETHLENFALVY IS THE MPP FOR PICKERING-UXBRIDGE AND JOINS US NOW FROM THE FROST BLOCK AT QUEEN'S PARK.

Bethlenfalvy is in his fifties, clean-shaven, with short, receding gray hair. He's wearing a black suit, white shirt and blue tie.

Steve continues MINISTER, FIRST OF ALL, HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU AND THANKS FOR JOINING US ON TVO TONIGHT. HOW ARE YOU?

Bethlenfalvy says PLEASURE TO BE WITH YOU. HAPPY NEW YEAR. AND I'M DOING WELL GIVEN THE CIRCUMSTANCES, THANK YOU.

Steve says LET'S START THERE. CAN I ASSUME THIS IS A JOB THAT YOU FEEL QUALIFIED TO HAVE AND EAGER TO DO, BUT PERHAPS DID NOT NECESSARILY WANT TO GET UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES?

The caption changes to "Peter Bethlenfalvy. Minister of Finance."
Then, it changes again to "Replacing Rod Phillips."

Bethlenfalvy says DEFINITELY NOT UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES. YOU KNOW, IT'S BEEN A TOUGH PERIOD FOR MANY IN ONTARIO, AND SO NOT THE CIRCUMSTANCES, BUT, YOU KNOW, I DID SPEND TWO AND A HALF YEARS AS PRESIDENT OF THE TREASURY BOARD, AS YOU MENTION, I CONTINUE TO DO THAT ROLE. AND I DID SPEND PRETTY WELL MY WHOLE CAREER IN THE FINANCIAL MARKETS, HALF IN NEW YORK IN WALL STREET AND HALF AT BAY STREET IN TORONTO SO I HAVE THE FINANCE DNA. SO THE TRANSITION HAS BEEN, I WOULDN'T SAY SEAMLESS BECAUSE IT'S ONLY BEEN A FEW DAYS, BUT WELL-POSITIONED TO BE ABLE TO MAKE A SEAMLESS TRANSITION.

Steve says WE WILL TALK BUDGET-MAKING BUT YOU'LL UNDERSTAND MY INTEREST AND CURIOSITY IN SOME MORE OF THE DETAILS AROUND HOW YOU GOT THIS JOB, AND I WONDER WHETHER YOU'VE HAD A CHANCE TO TALK TO ROD PHILLIPS SINCE HE'S COME BACK FROM DOWN SOUTH YET?

Bethlenfalvy says I HAVE. I HAVE. AND, YOU KNOW, ROD IS A VERY GOOD MAN, BUT HE MADE, IN HIS OWN WORDS, A DUMB MISTAKE, HE TOOK FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT, HE PAID A POLITICAL PRICE, AND I'VE GOT TO GET ON WITH THE WORK OF PROTECTING FAMILIES AND THE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF ALL ONTARIANS, AND I'M GOING TO WORK AROUND THE CLOCK TO DO THAT, AND WE'VE GOT A LOT TO DO.

Steve says DO YOU THINK HE NEEDED TO RESIGN?

The caption changes to "Peter Bethlenfalvy. PC MPP, Pickering-Uxbridge. Treasury Board Secretariat."

Bethlenfalvy says WELL, IT'S A DECISION HE MADE AND I THINK... YOU KNOW, I UNDERSTAND THE ANGER OUT THERE AND, YOU KNOW, US POLITICIANS DO GET HELD TO A HIGHER STANDARD BUT WE KNOW THAT GOING IN. WE KNOW THAT GOING IN. SO ALL OF US HAVE CHOSEN PUBLIC SERVICE. WE HAVE TO CONTINUE EVERY DAY TO HELP PEOPLE AND PAY THE PRICE IF WE DON'T. SO THAT'S PART OF THE ENVIRONMENT THAT WE OPERATE IN. THAT WAS FOR A DECISION THAT HE MADE AND DISCUSSIONS BETWEEN HIM AND THE PREMIER SO I'LL LEAVE IT AT THAT.

Steve says I DON'T WANT TO INFRINGE TOO MUCH, NOT TOO MUCH, ON YOUR PRIVATE CONVERSATION WITH HIM BUT, YOU KNOW, THE QUESTION EVERYBODY IN ONTARIO HAS TODAY IS: WHY DID HE GO SOUTH? DID YOU ASK HIM THAT AND DID HE GIVE YOU AN ANSWER?

The caption changes to "Peter Bethlenfalvy, @Pbethlenfalvy."

Bethlenfalvy says YOU KNOW, FRANKLY, NO, HE'S PAID... HE'S ADMITTED HE'S MADE A MISTAKE AND HE'S PAID A POLITICAL PRICE FOR THAT, AND HE TOOK, I THINK, THE HONOURABLE ROUTE, TO RESIGN. HE UNDERSTOOD THE ANGER OF MANY ONTARIANS, AND I CAN UNDERSTAND THAT ANGER. BUT THE CONVERSATIONS ARE PRIVATE, BUT I WILL SAY THIS: HE'S BEEN INCREDIBLY HELPFUL, AS WE WORKED VERY CLOSELY TOGETHER BEFORE THIS. HE'S BEEN VERY HELPFUL IN THE TRANSITION AND VERY OPEN AND PROFESSIONAL. SO I REALLY ADMIRE HIM FOR THAT.

Steve says OKAY. WHAT IMPACT DO YOU THINK THIS WHOLE BROUHAHA HAS HAD ON THE TRUSTWORTHINESS THAT THE PUBLIC HOLDS YOUR GOVERNMENT IN?

Bethlenfalvy says WELL, I THINK THE NUMBER ONE PRIORITY, AND HAS BEEN THROUGHOUT, IS TO FOCUS ON THE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF ONTARIANS, AND WE'RE GOING TO... THAT'S ALL... THAT'S WHAT WE'RE FOCUSED ON. WHETHER IT'S PROVIDING THE SUPPORT, IN MY ROLE PARTICULARLY AS A FINANCIAL GUY, TO PROVIDE THE FISCAL SUPPORTS FOR THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM, WHETHER IT'S VACCINES OR WHETHER IT'S FRONT LINE WORKERS OR INFRASTRUCTURE, WHATEVER IT TAKES, INFECTION, PREVENTION AND CONTROL AND SO ON, THE LONG-TERM CARE, AND MAKING SURE THEY'RE SAFE, INVESTING IN THE PEOPLE AND PROVIDING THE SUPPORTS AND THE EDUCATION SYSTEM. SO WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE TO DO... WORK THE PLAN THAT WE'VE BEEN WORKING ON TO PUT THAT AS OUR TOP PRIORITY. SO THAT'S NOT GOING TO CHANGE.

Steve says ONE LAST QUESTION, ADMITTEDLY A LITTLE BIT SMART ASS-Y, BUT YOU'LL UNDERSTAND WHY I'M ASKING IT. I SEE QUEEN'S PARK IN THE BACKGROUND BEHIND YOU. IS THAT LEGITIMATELY THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OR IS THERE SOMETHING ELSE GOING ON HERE?

The caption changes to "Building a budget."

Bethlenfalvy says WELL, AS YOU CAN SEE, THE FLAG IS FLYING. I'M JUST TAKING A LOOK. I DON'T KNOW HOW THEY WOULD SIMULATE. SO IT'S A REAL, LIVE PICTURE. I'M HERE IN AN EXPANSIVE BUILDING WITH VIRTUALLY NOBODY HERE, AND SO... BUT THIS IS WHERE I'M COMING FROM. YOU KNOW, VIRTUALLY ALL THE MEETINGS I HAVE, INCLUDING WITH MY PARENTS ON CHRISTMAS EVE, WAS ZOOM, AND WITH MY COUSINS THE DAY BEFORE, WHICH WAS A GREAT WAY TO ACTUALLY TALK TO A LOT OF COUSINS THAT MAY BE OFTEN DIFFICULT TO TALK WITH PHYSICALLY BY ZOOM. AND SO I'M OPERATING AT QUEEN'S PARK IN THE FROST BUILDING WITH THE LEGISLATURE BEHIND ME.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Steve says OKAY, GOOD. LET'S GET ON TO THE BUDGET. ARE YOU GOING TO TAKE... I MEAN, THE BUDGET IS NORMALLY, YOU KNOW, A YEAR-LONG PROCESS AND YOU'RE GETTING THROWN IN THERE WITH ABOUT THREE MONTHS TO GO... OR MAYBE LESS THAN THREE MONTHS TO GO. HAVE YOU ASKED THE PREMIER TO GIVE YOU AN EXTENSION TO LET YOU BRING THE BUDGET OUT LATER JUST SO YOU CAN HAVE MORE TIME TO GET UP TO SPEED?

Bethlenfalvy says THE GOOD NEWS IS, IS THAT I'VE BEEN INVOLVED IN BUDGET-MAKING FOR THE LAST TWO AND A HALF YEARS IN THIS GOVERNMENT. WE'VE WORKED VERY CLOSELY, THE PREMIER, THE PREVIOUS FINANCE MINISTER AND ROD WORKED VERY CLOSELY TOGETHER, AS YOU KNOW, THE TREASURY BOARD IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE EXPENDITURES AND FINANCE STRINGS, REVENUE, AND THE WHOLE BUDGET DOCUMENT TOGETHER. SO I'VE HAD AN INSIDE ROLE ALL THE WAY THROUGH. THESE THINGS DON'T HAPPEN OVERNIGHT, SO WE'VE BEEN WORKING SOME TIME ON THIS BUDGET AND I'M CONFIDENT, WORKING VERY CLOSELY WITH THE PREMIER, WHO HAS SHOWN TREMENDOUS LEADERSHIP OUT THERE, HE'S OUT THERE EVERY DAY WORKING HARD, AND MY CAUCUS COLLEAGUES, WHO ARE DOING THE SAME, AND WE'RE DOING ALL OF THIS TOGETHER ACROSS PARTY LINES AS WELL AND ACROSS REGIONAL LINES AND FEDERALLY. SO A LOT OF WORK HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE AND I'M GOING TO CONTINUE IT ON.

Steve says WHEN YOU SAY FEDERALLY, HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO TALK TO CHRYSTIA FREELAND YET?

Bethlenfalvy says I HAVE. WE'VE HAD A VERY GOOD CONVERSATION. YOU KNOW, WE'VE GOT A LOT OF WORK TO DO TOGETHER. I KNOW THE CONVERSATIONS BEFOREHAND, OTTAWA TO QUEEN'S PARK HAVE BEEN ONGOING ON MULTIPLE LEVELS. WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE THOSE CONVERSATIONS. IT'S IMPORTANT THAT WE CONTINUE... I THINK THE PEOPLE OF ONTARIO ABSOLUTELY WANT US TO WORK TOGETHER AND I'M FULLY COMMITTED TO WORK TOGETHER... WE HAVE BEEN, I THINK CONSTRUCTIVELY. I THINK THAT WE NEED TO FOCUS ON SOME AREAS OF COMMON INTEREST. THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM. WE NEED MORE FUNDING FOR THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM. WE NEED TO SPEND THE MONEY... BECAUSE NOT ONLY ARE WE, THROUGH THE PANDEMIC, BUT WE HAVE AN AGING POPULATION. WE HAVE A SOCIETY THAT NEEDS US COLLECTIVELY TO INVEST MORE IN HEALTH CARE, AND BY THAT I'M SPEAKING SPECIFICALLY ABOUT THE CANADA HEALTH TRANSFER PROGRAM, AND HISTORICALLY WE'VE GOTTEN MORE MONEY FROM OTTAWA BUT THAT'S DECLINED OVER THE YEARS TO 22 percent OF HEALTH CARE EXPENDITURES. SO WE WOULD LIKE, AND WE'VE CALLED ALONG WITH THE OTHER PROVINCES, TO INCREASE THAT TO 35 percent OF HEALTH CARE EXPENDITURES, AND I THINK NOW IS THE TIME. WE ARE IN THE CRISIS. THIS IS WHERE ALL HANDS ON DECK. WE'RE PUTTING THE FISCAL FIREPOWER TO DO EVERYTHING WE CAN IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES ON OUR HEALTH CARE SYSTEM, SUPPORT THEM, BUT WE HAVE TO HAVE LONG-TERM, SUSTAINABLE FINANCIAL PLAN TO BE ABLE TO DELIVER HEALTH CARE AND LONG-TERM CARE, INCLUDING MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTION CARE, TO NOT JUST THE PEOPLE OF ONTARIO BUT AS WELL THE PEOPLE OF CANADA.

Steve says IF SHE WERE TO FULFIL THAT ASK, GOING FROM 22 TO 35 PERCENT, WHAT DOLLAR FIGURE DOES THAT REPRESENT TO THE TREASURY OF ONTARIO?

Bethlenfalvy says WELL, IT'S A BIG NUMBER BECAUSE OUR EXPENDITURES IN HEALTH CARE HAVE GONE UP SIGNIFICANTLY. SO IT WOULD BE BILLIONS OF DOLLARS.

Steve says WHICH LEADS ME TO MY NEXT QUESTION: GIVEN THAT SHE IS ALREADY RUNNING A DEFICIT OF ALMOST 400 BILLION dollars THIS YEAR, WHAT MAKES YOU THINK YOU REMOTELY HAVE A SHOT AT GETTING THIS?

Bethlenfalvy says WELL, I THINK WE HAVE A SHOT... WE SHOULD HAVE A SHOT BECAUSE, FIRST OF ALL, IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO. FROM A FISCAL POINT OF VIEW, WE HAVE THE CAPACITY TO DO THAT. WE ALSO HAVE, IN THIS ENVIRONMENT, HISTORICALLY LOW INTEREST RATES. YOU KNOW, IN OUR BUDGET IN NOVEMBER OF 2020, OUR PROJECTION FOR FUNDING OF INTEREST RATES WERE 1.6 percent. SO WE'RE AT INCREDIBLY HISTORICALLY LOW INTEREST RATES. SO WE HAVE THE CAPACITY AND THEY HAVE THE CAPACITY AND I THINK THIS IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO BECAUSE WE GET A RETURN FROM INVESTING IN THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM, AND WE GET A RETURN FOR INVESTING IN PEOPLE BECAUSE WE CAN'T HAVE A HEALTHY ECONOMY WITHOUT HEALTHY PEOPLE. AND SO AS WE TURN THE CORNER HERE, AND I'M SAYING THERE'S HOPE, AS WE FIRST FOCUS ON THE PANDEMIC BUT WE'VE GOT TO LOOK AROUND DOWN THE ROAD A LITTLE BIT AND THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY I THINK WE'LL COME BACK STRONGER THAN EVER, PARTICULARLY HERE IN ONTARIO BUT ACROSS CANADA, AND TOGETHER I THINK THESE TYPES OF INVESTMENTS IN OUR HEALTH CARE SYSTEM ARE THE RIGHT THING TO DO, BUT FROM A PERSONAL POINT OF VIEW BUT THEY'RE A RIGHT THING TO DO FROM AN ECONOMIC POINT OF VIEW.

Steve says I WAS TALKING TO ONE OF YOUR PREDECESSORS THE OTHER DAY, WHEN I SAY PREDECESSORS, I MEAN WAY BACK, DARCY MCKEOUGH, TREASURER AS THEY CALLED THE JOB IN ONTARIO BACK IN THE 1970s, AND HE SAID THAT IF HE KNEW ANYTHING ABOUT THE FINANCES OF THE PROVINCE, AND I THINK HE DOES, YOU GUYS SHOULD BE LOOKING AT INCREASING THE HARMONIZED SALES TAX ONE OR TWO POINTS BECAUSE, IN HIS VIEW, YOU NEED THE MONEY AND A LOT OF PEOPLE WOULDN'T SEE IT. IS THAT AN OPTION FOR YOU?

Bethlenfalvy says FIRST OFF, IF HE'S WATCHING, HIGH TO THE DUKE OF KENT, AN INCREDIBLE INDIVIDUAL AND I HAVE MET HIM AND I'VE ACTUALLY GOT HIS BOOK AND I'VE READ HIS BOOK. SO I LIKE TO LEARN FROM MY PREDECESSORS, SO HE'S ONE OF THOSE WHO HAD AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THIS PROVINCE. YOU KNOW, HISTORICALLY, THAT HASN'T BEEN THE APPROACH THAT I'VE BEEN PART OF, NOR THE PARTY, AND OUR EXPERIENCES PRE THE PANDEMIC AND PARTICULARLY NOW IS NOT THE RIGHT TIME TO INCREASE TAXES. THERE WILL BE A TIME AND PLACE TO LOOK AT THE FINANCES. BUT RIGHT NOW WE'VE BEEN... PRE-PANDEMIC, WE PUT IN A LOT OF TAX MEASURES TO SUPPORT INDIVIDUALS. OUR LOW INCOME FAMILY TAX, AND INDIVIDUAL TAX, WAS TO HELP THE LOWEST INCOME PEOPLE. WE'VE REDUCED IT TO ZERO. WE REDUCED THE SMALL BUSINESS INCOME TAX BY OVER 8 percent TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES. THIS IS PRE-PANDEMIC. AND DURING THE PANDEMIC, WE'VE PROVIDED INCOME RELIEF FOR... TAX RELIEF FOR EMPLOYERS, SO WE'VE INCREASED THE EMPLOYER HEALTH CARE... HEALTH TAX FROM 450,000 OF REVENUES ROUGHLY. WE HAVE HISTORICALLY AND CONTINUE TO PUT IN MEASURES SO THE RISK-TAKERS OF THIS PROVINCE, THE HARD-WORKING PEOPLE OF THIS PROVINCE, CAN REINVEST IN THIS PROVINCE AND THAT'S THE WAY TO RECOVERY.

Steve says I WANT TO TAKE YOU BACK A LITTLE OVER A YEAR AND A HALF WHEN YOU AND I SAT DOWN IN ONE OF YOUR OTHER OFFICES TO DO AN INTERVIEW FOR THE ONPOLI PODCAST, IT WAS A LENGTHY INTERVIEW, AND I DO REMEMBER YOU SAYING IN THAT INTERVIEW AND YOU WERE LESS THAN A YEAR ON THE JOB AS A ROOKIE MPP, YOU SAID I WANT TO BRING THE LANGUAGE OF BUSINESS TO THE BUSINESS OF GOVERNMENT. I WONDER WHETHER YOU CAN ACTUALLY RUN GOVERNMENT LIKE A BUSINESS IN THE MIDDLE OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC?

The caption changes to "The business of government."

Bethlenfalvy says WELL, WHAT I SAID THERE AND WHAT I MEANT, AND I THINK IT'S VERY ACCURATE, IS YOU'VE GOT TO HAVE A PLAN, WHEN YOU HAVE A BUSINESS YOU'VE GOT TO KNOW WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE, AND THAT'S HOW YOU BRING PEOPLE ALONG TO YOUR VISION. SO VERY IMPORTANT IN BUSINESS AND IN GOVERNMENT TO HAVE A PLAN, AND I THINK... I REMEMBER SITTING DOWN WITH ONE OF THE BARGAINING AGENTS, I DON'T MIND SAYING, IT WAS SMOKY THOMAS AND HE ASKED ME THE SAME QUESTION AND I SAID WE'VE GOT TO HAVE A PLAN, WE'VE GOT TO MEASURE IT, AND WE'VE GOT TO DELIVER ON IT. AND HE SAID THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT THEY DO. AND SO IT'S A COMMON LANGUAGE, THAT HAVING A PLAN, MAKING SURE YOU KNOW WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE, AND IMPLEMENTING THAT PLAN IS SO KEY. SO THAT PHRASEOLOGY STILL STANDS AFTER GOING INTO GOVERNMENT TWO AND A HALF YEARS.

Steve says BUT I KNOW FROM YOUR BACKGROUND THAT YOU GOT INTO PUBLIC LIFE IN ORDER TO BRING THE FINANCES OF THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO BACK INTO WHAT YOU SAW AS, YOU KNOW, BACK INTO THE BLACK, IF I CAN PUT IT THAT WAY. YOU THOUGHT OUR DEFICITS WERE TOO BIG, OUR DEBT AS A PERCENTAGE OF OUR ECONOMY WAS TOO BIG. YOU'RE NOW GOING TO BE PRESIDING OVER ONE OF THE LARGEST DEFICITS IN ONTARIO HISTORY, AND I KNOW YOU DIDN'T GET INTO PUBLIC LIFE TO DO THAT. BUT I WONDER WHETHER THIS PANDEMIC HAS MADE YOU RE-THINK THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT AND WHAT PEOPLE RELY ON GOVERNMENTS FOR?

Bethlenfalvy says WELL, IT'S A VERY FAIR QUESTION, STEVE. I WOULD SAY THAT PART OF THE REASON I GOT INTO GOVERNMENT WAS, YOU KNOW, I BELIEVE FUNDAMENTALLY THAT YOU HAVE TO HAVE A STRUCTURAL BALANCE, THAT YOU CAN'T... LIKE FAMILIES, YOU CAN'T SPEND FOREVER MORE THAN YOU TAKE IN. IT'S AS SIMPLE AS THAT. AND YOU DO THAT SO THAT WHEN YOU HIT A CRISIS, IF YOU'RE A FAMILY OR A SMALL BUSINESS, THAT YOU HAVE THE MEANS TO GET THROUGH THE CRISIS. AND GOVERNMENTS ARE NO DIFFERENT. AND SO WE ARE A FAMILY THAT MAYBE DIDN'T SAVE ENOUGH MONEY IN GOVERNMENT BEFOREHAND... THAT'S WHY I GOT INTO POLITICS. WE NOW HAVE A CRISIS. I'VE SAID THAT, YOU KNOW, THE LONG-TERM FINANCES AND DEFICIT ARE NOT SUSTAINABLE OR DESIRABLE, BUT RIGHT NOW THEY ARE NECESSARY. WE HAVE A FAMILY EMERGENCY, SO WE'RE GOING TO TAKE CARE OF THAT FAMILY EMERGENCY, AND LONGER TERM WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO GET BACK TO, ONCE WE'VE TURNED THE CORNER, I THINK THERE'S HOPE... I BELIEVE THERE'S HOPE... THERE IS HOPE THAT WE'RE TURNING THE CORNER IN 2021. THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY IS WHAT WE'RE GOING TO BE VERY FOCUSED ON AS WE TURN THAT CORNER FROM A HEALTH PANDEMIC TO AN ECONOMIC ONE, AND WE'LL COME OUT STRONGER THAN BEFORE. SO THOSE PRINCIPLES HAVEN'T CHANGED. THEY'VE JUST... THE TIME FRAME HAS JUST CHANGED A LITTLE BIT.

Steve says HOW MUCH?

Bethlenfalvy says WELL, YOU KNOW, STAY TUNED. HOW MANY DAYS ON THE JOB... MAYBE FOUR OR FIVE DAYS ON THE JOB. GIVE ME A LITTLE BIT OF TIME. HISTORICALLY THE MINISTER OF FINANCE HAS A LITTLE BIT MORE TIME TO TABLING A BUDGET BUT AS I SAID BEFORE I'VE BEEN INVOLVED IN THE BUDGET PROCESS FOR THE LAST TWO AND A HALF YEARS AND I'M GOING TO CONTINUE TO WORK VERY CLOSELY WITH THE PREMIER WHO HAS BEEN LEADING THE CHARGE IN THIS PROVINCE AND DOING AN OUTSTANDING JOB TO REALLY DO EVERYTHING IT TAKES TO KEEP PEOPLE SAFE IN THIS PROVINCE BUT ALSO AN EYE ON THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY. SO WE'LL WORK CLOSELY TOGETHER ALONG WITH MY CABINET AND CAUCUS COLLEAGUES WHO, YOU KNOW, IT TAKES A TEAM AND WE'VE GOT A GREAT TEAM. POUND FOR POUND, JUST AN OUTSTANDING TEAM AND JUST STAY TUNED.

Steve says I DID A LITTLE CHECKING AND IT'S BEEN 34 YEARS SINCE WE HAD A MINISTER OF FINANCE IN ONTARIO WHO IS ALSO PRESIDENT OF THE TREASURY BOARD OF CABINET, AS A MINISTRY. WE'VE HAD OTHER MINISTERS OF FINANCE WHO ALSO CHAIRED A SUB-COMMITTEE OF CABINET WHO LOOKED AT SPENDING OVERSIGHT IN THE WAY YOU DO. THE DOUBLE ROLE YOU HAD, THREE AND A HALF DECADES SINCE BOB NIXON HAD BOTH ROLES. AND I HOPE THIS IS A FAIR QUESTION, BUT DO YOU HAVE TOO MUCH POWER RIGHT NOW? THAT'S A LOT OF POWER INVESTED IN ONE PERSON?

Bethlenfalvy says I'M FOCUSED... FIRST OFF, I THINK MAYBE I'LL GIVE BOB NIXON A CALL. YOU KNOW, THIS IS THE GREAT THING ABOUT PUBLIC SERVICE. I'VE HAD A LOT OF CONVERSATIONS, STEVE, BEFORE THE PANDEMIC, DURING AND AFTER. IT'S NOT A PARTISAN THING AND EVERYONE WANTS TO HELP. AND THAT'S WHAT MAKES ONTARIANS SO FANTASTIC AND CANADIANS SO FANTASTIC. SO GOOD MEMO TO FILE ON BOB. LOOK, THIS ISN'T ABOUT POWER. THIS IS ABOUT DEALING WITH THE CHALLENGE AT HAND, WITH MY COLLEAGUES AND UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF THE PREMIER, AND THAT IS, WE ARE FACED WITH AN UNPRECEDENTED PANDEMIC. WE HAVE A HEALTH CARE CRISIS. WE'VE GOT TO SUPPORT EVERY ELEMENT OF THE SYSTEM, OUR HEALTH CARE SYSTEM, OUR LONG-TERM CARE SYSTEM, THE MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTIONS SUPPORTS, OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM. WE'VE MADE... LOOK, WE'VE PUT RECORD INVESTMENTS IN PLACE. BEFORE THE PANDEMIC WE WERE LOOKING AT ABOUT A 6 BILLION dollar DEFICIT. WE'RE NOW LOOKING AT A 38.5 BILLION dollar DEFICIT. WE'VE SEEN A MASSIVE RECESSION THAT WE ARE DIGGING OUR WAY OUT OF IT BUT WE'RE NOT DONE YET. SO THIS IS A TEAM EFFORT. YOU CAN'T DO IT ALONE. AND AS I SAID EARLIER, WHETHER IT'S WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, PROVIDING SUPPORTS, DOING WHAT WE NEED TO DO HERE PROVINCIALLY, WE'LL GET THE JOB DONE. BUT WE'RE GOING TO TURN THE CORNER TOO. THERE IS HOPE, AND THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY IS GOING TO BE A BIG FOCUS OF THE WHOLE ONTARIO TEAM.

Steve says I CAN TELL YOU, INCIDENTALLY, MR. NIXON IS 92 YEARS OLD, LIVING IN PARIS, ONTARIO, AND STILL SHARP AS A TACK. YOU WILL ENJOY THE PHONE CALL IF AND WHEN YOU MAKE IT. MINISTER, MR. PRESIDENT, WHATEVER YOUR TITLE IS RIGHT NOW, I GUESS BOTH OF THEM, I WANT TO ASK YOU ONE LAST THING AND I HARKEN BACK AGAIN TO THAT ONPOLI PODCAST WE DID A YEAR AND A HALF AGO WHEN YOU TOLD US FORMER FEDERAL FINANCE MINISTER MICHAEL WILSON WAS YOUR POLITICAL MENTOR AND HERO. HE LIKE YOU GAVE UP A BIG SALARY TO COME INTO PUBLIC LIFE. AND I WANT TO KNOW, I GUESS A RATHER PERSONAL QUESTION HERE: YOU NOW HAVE THE SAME JOB THAT HE HAD, THE SAME TITLE ANYWAY. YOU'RE BOTH MINISTERS OF FINANCE. AND I WONDER IF... HOW MEANINGFUL IS THAT ADDITIONAL CONNECTION BETWEEN THE TWO OF YOU FOR YOU?

The caption changes to "Remembering a Mentor."

Bethlenfalvy says WELL, IT'S PROFOUND, AND THANKS FOR MENTIONING THAT, BECAUSE I GOT MY POLITICAL STRIPES, FIRST BEING A QUEBECER, COMING FROM QUEBEC, AND BRIAN MULRONEY AND THEN COMING TO ONTARIO AND I WENT UP TO, AS A YOUNG KID... WELL, RELATIVELY... WENT UP TO THIS GUY AND SAID DO YOU NEED SOME HELP AND IT WAS MICHAEL WILSON AND THAT STARTED A LIFE-LONG FRIENDSHIP. I SAW HOW HARD HE WORKED IN THE RIDING, FIRST OFF, THAT'S WHERE WE MET. BUT I ALSO SAW HOW HARD HE WORKED ON BEHALF OF THE PEOPLE OF CANADA IN HIS VARIOUS ROLES AND THEN WHEN HE LEFT PUBLIC OFFICE AGAIN HOW HE CONTINUED THAT HARD WORK, WHETHER IT WAS IN THE MENTAL HEALTH AREA, WHETHER IT WAS IN THE EDUCATION SYSTEM OR CROSS-BORDER, AS BEING AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S. THIS IS AFTER HE LEFT GOVERNMENT. AND I THOUGHT, WHAT A GREAT ROLE MODEL. YOU'VE GOT TO GIVE BACK. YOU KNOW, I'VE TOLD YOU THIS STORY OF MY PARENTS BEING WORLD WAR II REFUGEES, ONE IN '44 AND MY FATHER A LITTLE BIT LATER WITH THE RED ARMY ADVANCING, AND THEY COULD HAVE GONE TO A LOT OF PLACES. MY MOTHER'S FRIEND'S FAMILY WENT TO VENEZUELA. MY FAMILY CAME HERE ON BOTH SIDES. AND I BELIEVE STRONGLY THAT THIS IS THE BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD THAT ALLOWS PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER TO COME TOGETHER, AND... BUT TO DO THAT, YOU CAN'T TAKE WHAT WE HAVE TODAY FOR GRANTED AND GIVE BACK. PUBLIC SERVICE IS SO CRITICAL IF WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE TO PASS ON TO THE NEXT GENERATION A STRONG COUNTRY, A STRONG DEMOCRACY, AND MICHAEL WILSON EMBODIED THAT TO THE CORE. SO I DO MISS HIM. HIS COUNSEL WOULD BE VERY WELCOMED AT THIS STAGE, BUT THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT THERE ARE A LOT OF OTHER CANADIANS THAT I'VE BEEN ABLE TO TALK TO, I'VE GONE ON ALL SIDES OF THE AISLE, TO GIVE ME COUNSEL AND THEY'VE BEEN VERY GIVING OF THEIR TIME.

The caption changes to "Producer: Steve Paikin, @spaikin; Producer: Cara Stern, @carastern."

Steve says I GUESS I SHOULD LET YOU GO NOW BECAUSE I'M BETTING DARCY McKEOWN AND OTHERS ARE WAITING FOR YOUR PHONE CALL. HAPPY NEW YEAR AND WE'LL SEE YOU AGAIN DOWN THE ROAD.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Bethlenfalvy says HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU, STEVE, AND IT'S ALWAYS GOOD TO SEE YOU. THANK YOU.

Watch: Meet Ontario's New Finance Minister