Cut spending, taxes; boost trade, the trades

By MPP Toby Barrett

Over the past year since being re-elected as your MPP, we’ve seen some surprising and unprecedented developments within our provincial government – the Premier’s decision to shut down parliament tops the list.

And while we in Opposition push for a return of the Ontario Legislature, we continue to work on plans and policy toward boosting Ontario’s idle economy.

The number one priority for any plan of escape from our current government’s misdirection and economic decline has to be balancing the budget and paying down debt.

Last year, Ontario spent $13 billion more than it earned in revenue. That’s
double the combined deficits of every other province in Canada. Every year of delay in balancing the budget adds billions of dollars to Ontario’s $260-billion debt – projected to be $411.4 billion in five years.

Businesses know what comes next when a government is deeply in debt — taxes go up, and infrastructure projects get postponed. By the same token, serious steps toward balancing the books and paying down debt helps create a business environment prime for job-creation and investment.

Beyond implementing a public sector wage freeze, steps in this direction must include reduction in the cost and size of government and reduction of taxes to foster business investment.

Lower taxes send the signal to companies they will get higher after-tax returns if they
build plants, retain staff, or purchase new equipment. This means more jobs for the unemployed and new opportunities for economic growth.

It’s important to implement tax cuts that would grow the economy. We can look at all options, including:
· business income taxes;
· personal income taxes; or
· the provincial portion of the harmonized sales tax.

On another note, significant barriers to trade remain in Canada, and around the world, costing Ontario’s economy $6 billion annually in lost commerce. It’s fundamental, real action must be taken to strengthen and further our relationship with our largest trading partner, the U.S.

We also need to look to emerging markets like India. It’s estimated free trade between Canada and India could boost Canada’s economy by at least $6 billion, resulting in 40,000 new jobs.

Closer to home, my colleague MPP Garfield Dunlop recently visited our area to propose modernization of Ontario’s outdated apprenticeship system to create 200,000 new skilled-trades jobs.

Ontario faces a shortage of up to one million skilled workers over the next decade. While some skilled trades require as many as three or five journeymen to train one apprentice, there is no rational educational or safety reason for this. Almost all of the other provinces have already modernized their regulations. It’s simply a way for unions to limit competition from new workers.

The current government is going to give union leaders even more say over trades training with its new College of Trades. It plans to charge everyone in the trades new fees and make it even more difficult to get into these professions.

We suggest more trades people be trained through a combination of community college training and job placements arranged by the colleges. This means more electricians, welders, plumbers, carpenters and brick-layers. Often after five or six years of experience, people open their own business.

By cutting spending and taxes while boosting trade and the trades, Ontario can lead this country in job creation and once again serve as home to aspiring entrepreneurs, and a thriving economy.