It’s time to wake up job creation in Ontario

By MPP Toby Barrett
With the loss of 300,000 manufacturing jobs since 2003, and an unemployment rate above the national average five years running, Ontario has regrettably become the ‘sick man’ of Canada.

Once seen as a place of opportunity and hope – a province that attracted work and hardworking people — Ontario is now a have-not province careening toward a projected $411.4 billion debt.

Without an influx of work and hard-working people — and the attendant tax revenue — Ontario can no longer afford quality public services such as first-class education, world-leading health care and state-of-the-art infrastructure.

Although Ontario is on the wrong path, it doesn’t need to be this way. My colleagues and I have a plan to heal the patient – to deliver progress and prosperity – and put Ontario back on track to once again be a national leader.

Small business owners tell us they are having trouble making ends meet. We can only remind them we’ve come back from the brink in the past and we can do it again. We are blessed with unrivaled competitive advantage of skilled workforce, hungry entrepreneurs, access to markets, and an abundance of resources and human capital.

Steps can be taken:
First, we must rein in the size and cost of government. When Ontario lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs it created 300,000 government jobs. This spring I supported legislation that would have enshrined into law a mandatory public sector wage freeze. Private businesses do it, why can’t government?

Second, we must lower the cost of doing business — lower business taxes to 10 per cent. We’re competing in a global environment. Ontario can’t afford to have higher taxes than other jurisdictions. We have to deal with high energy costs. Opposition Energy Critic, MPP Vic Fedeli, published our first Paths to Prosperity white paper on treating energy as a cornerstone of economic growth. The paper is available at (Comments are welcomed.)

And then there are the hundreds of thousands of rules and regulations – many suffocate economic growth. Ontario has an army of bureaucrats telling businesspeople, “Do this, don’t do that.”

Our economy has changed and the economics of labour must also change. Opposition Labour Critic MPP Randy Hillier, released the second white paper — Flexible Labour Markets. It’s time for Ontario to re-examine outdated workplace rules that date back to the 1940s and adapt them to the much more flexible requirements of today’s employees. The paper focuses on four areas: giving the individual worker a choice on becoming or remaining a union member; making union leaders more accountable to unionized employees; modernizing tendering rules to open up more government work to private sector competition; and reforming Ontario’s workplace agencies for a more flexible workforce and job creation. Again the white paper can be viewed at (Comments are welcomed.)

Finally, Ontario is in need of more people skilled in the trades. Our plan would help create 200,000 jobs in the trades by allowing employers to take on more apprentices. This means more electricians, ironworkers, carpenters, construction millwrights and sheet metal workers. The list goes on and so do the opportunities.

It’s time to wake up Ontario and wake up job creation in Ontario. Once again, Ontario can be a place where opportunities abound for everyone willing to work hard, and where we can enjoy the highest quality of life available anywhere.