By MPP Toby Barrett
A thriving manufacturing sector is vital to Ontario’s future. Advanced manufacturing is returning to North America, driven by rising transportation costs and increasing wages in other competing countries.
Advanced manufacturing involves much more than assembling products. It creates jobs in design, advertising, customer service and global marketing. Combine these services with Ontario’s strong telecommunications and financial sectors, and you have a series of advantages that can’t be offset by the inexpensive labour of Asia and Latin America.
But Ontario’s manufacturers require a government that will ensure power rates are competitive; that the provincial transportation system works well; that our schools and colleges educate people for the workplace of the twenty-first century, and that the regulations government imposes encourage competition, not deter it.
In the United States, we are seeing major corporations bring home production from abroad because they need highly-skilled workers, and because they want to produce their goods closer to their customers. Even Chinese companies are starting to make their products in North America. Here in Ontario, we need a dedicated effort to seek out and to help facilitate companies to relocate and return home.
Fortunately, things are looking up for North American manufacturing.
A contributing factor is the rise of the global consuming class. Rapidly expanding economies in Asia and Latin America are not just competitors, they are customers. Another thing driving a rebirth in North American manufacturing is the discovery of large quantities of inexpensive natural gas. Shale gas is nothing short of a game changer for Ontario manufacturing because it not only provides lower-cost power and heating, but is also a feedstock vital to the production of pharmaceuticals, fertilizers and chemicals.
In order to support competitive, high-quality businesses, government requires fair policies on trade, taxes, regulations, power costs, infrastructure, education and labour rules. Companies in Ontario are being held back due to red tape and paperwork, as they attempt to invest in new technologies, heavy machinery, factories and software applications. We must ensure rules and regulations to produce a publicly-useful outcome.
We must aggressively push for more international and interprovincial free trade in order to open new opportunities for Ontario’s manufacturers and other businesses. As a start, Ontario should join the New West Partnership Agreement with Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.
The real debate is not about whether manufacturing has a future in Ontario – it’s about the steps we must take to seize the opportunities.
Ontario has all the raw materials needed to forge a modern, dynamic economy. If we tackle our current economic problems with the full force of our abilities and ingenuity, Ontario will be the best place in the world to invest, work and start a business.
We can rebuild our economy for the twenty-first century and create a strong, growing and confident middle class. In Ontario we are blessed with the greatest resource of all – people. We must harness the knowledge, ideas, hard work and ingenuity of Ontarians which will ultimately take us back to the top.
Ontario does have the resources and the geographic location to succeed. The challenge is to turn all of this into jobs, and that won’t happen without a strong manufacturing sector.
Manufacturing is destined for a bright future in North America. Ontario will always build things, make things, and fix things. Let’s bring back, “Made in Ontario”.