What has happened to manufacturing in Ontario?

By MPP Toby Barrett

Ontario is in trouble. It took over 60 years for Detroit to lose 270,000 manufacturing jobs – Ontario has lost 300,000 in the last 10 years alone. As with the devastation in bankrupt Detroit, those lost factory jobs aren’t coming back. We have to work hard to create 300,000 new ones.

Closed plants, lost jobs and families struggling to survive are the inevitable outcome of runaway power costs, overregulation and a failure of government to understand what entrepreneurs need to succeed.

In the last few years, Ontario has lost its way. We have become a province of smaller dreams and bigger government. While our economy has limped along, government spending has raced ahead.

Over the past decade Ontario has experienced extraordinary economic decline. The facts speak for themselves: 600,000 people unemployed, rapidly escalating energy prices, historic deficits and a doubling of the provincial debt that will both stifle job creation and burden future generations.


Our province has had a higher unemployment rate than the national average for 69 consecutive months. The provincial credit rating has been downgraded. Once-mighty Ontario is now considered a have-not province and receives equalization payments from the federal government.

We as a province have been experiencing a net loss of leading global companies for a number of reasons.

Ontario can’t afford a future where money desperately needed to invest in productivity and job creation is spent instead on power bills that have become dramatically higher simply because of government decree. Although Ontario has high unemployment, there are still good jobs going unfilled because of outdated apprenticeship rules.

The current tax system is a complex net of arbitrary rules that discourage productivity-enhancing investments.

Government regulations have become a growth industry in Ontario, one that creates jobs for bureaucrats, but not jobs in the private sector. The public sector is important, but it’s easy to forget that 8 out of 10 of all jobs are in the private sector.

Manufacturers can’t compete in the global market if they can’t get their products out the factory door in a timely way. Better roads and rapid transit are required across Ontario, but especially in the GTA and Hamilton.

Ontario’s manufacturers still face considerable barriers to trade within their own country. For example, every province has its own rules and regulations for trucking.

The debate in Ontario should not be about whether we will or won’t have a manufacturing sector. We must have manufacturing. Ontarians need the good jobs manufacturing creates. These are real jobs that create demand for other real jobs throughout the economy because of manufacturing’s demand for goods, services and raw materials. That’s how you build an economy, not with subsidies to hire workers that businesses don’t need.

Getting manufacturing back on its feet in Ontario requires not just a single change, but a combination of policies working together – taxation policy, energy and labour policy and deregulation. We are the manufacturing heartland of this continent, and always will be.

Manufacturing is a business of the future, not the past. Anyone who thinks otherwise just hasn’t been paying attention to the world economy. We have to move more quickly to get a piece of that action. This is the opportunity Ontario must seize, but the world isn’t going to sit still and wait for us.