TORONTO – Ontario is in the middle of an election campaign of its own right now. It won’t surprise you to hear that I have a few thoughts to share about this, and particularly our Ontario PC plan to create jobs in Ontario.
I know that yesterday the chief economists of the five major banks “gave an update” about the global economic situation. That’s a polite way of saying that they completely revised the rosy forecasts that they all gave to the Economic Club back in January.
Of course, I can’t be too hard on economists. As some of you may know, I’m a graduate of the University of Washington with a Master’s in Economics, and I know what people think of the “dismal science.”
Today, I want to talk about three opportunities to unlock Ontario’s tremendous economic potential:
First, making Ontario Canada’s leader in private sector job creation.
Second, rebuilding Ontario’s middle class.
Third, solving the paradox of high unemployment at the same time as skilled labour shortages.
So let’s start with the first economic opportunity – making Ontario a leader in private sector job creation.
As we look at the fragile state of today’s global economy, it’s striking how well Canada is positioned.
Nationally, we boast the world’s strongest banks. Our federal debt-to-GDP ratio is amongst the best in the world. We are blessed with countless entrepreneurs, and a strong can-do business culture. And we are a trading nation that strongly supports free trade.
Ontario, especially, is blessed with tremendous potential.
We’re home to Canada’s financial sector. We have an abundance of natural resources, from minerals to forests. We have excellent access to both Canadian and American markets. And we have the highest proportion of the population with university degrees in North America.
Yet, under Dalton McGuinty we are not taking advantage of these opportunities. Ontario is not living up to its potential. In fact, we’re slipping even further behind.
Nowhere is the gap between our potential and today’s reality more clear than job creation.
For 56 consecutive months – Dalton McGuinty’s entire second mandate and then some – Ontario’s unemployment rate has been above the national average.
Under Dalton McGuinty, almost 300,000 manufacturing sector jobs have vanished. That’s equivalent to the populations of Belleville, Cornwall, Kenora, Lindsay, North Bay, Peterborough, and Welland combined.
Toronto’s unemployment rate is higher than virtually every other major city in the country – one of the first times that has happened in decades. And in August alone, Ontario lost 2,800 jobs.
With all of its advantages, why is Ontario trailing our nation in jobs? Because Dalton McGuinty is pursuing the wrong jobs policies.
Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of Ontario workers still cannot find a job, Dalton McGuinty is now promising to spend even more of our tax dollars on affirmative action for foreign workers.
If you are an unemployed or underemployed Ontario worker with the qualifications needed to find a well-paying job, Dalton McGuinty will spend $10,000 to ensure a potential employer hires a foreign worker instead of you.
Despite the fact that Northern Ontario communities are desperate to develop their resources and create jobs, Dalton McGuinty has chosen to turn half of Northern Ontario into a vast untouchable museum.
Study after study shows that buying subsidized jobs – government picking winners and losers – just doesn’t work. And yet Dalton McGuinty clings to the belief that the key to economic growth is to hike taxes on hardworking families and productive businesses, in order to fund government-subsidized jobs.
Everywhere we look we see examples of how the McGuinty approach fails. In Spain, research showed that government investments in wind farms cost 1 million euros per job created.
In Texas, the state comptroller found that subsidized jobs cost $1.6 million per job.
In Italy, studies on industrial energy job subsidies found that for every one job created, 4.8 jobs were lost in the broader economy. That’s because resources were drained from the productive parts of the economy to support this program that couldn’t survive without a government handout.
Dalton McGuinty likes to boast about the so-called jobs of the future that he can only sustain through taxpayer subsidies. Yet the productive industries that made Ontario an economic powerhouse – such as our manufacturing base, our mining and forestry sectors – continue to suffer and lose jobs.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Ontario PC Party has a completely different approach.
We believe in freeing the job creators.
In letting customers and markets determine which companies succeed and grow, not government bureaucrats, not politicians.
We believe in lower taxes, and ending useless paperwork and bureaucratic run-arounds.
Here’s what an Ontario PC government will do to create good private sector jobs in Ontario.
First, we will reduce the basic corporate income tax rate to 10%. When Dalton McGuinty took office one of his first tax grabs was to hike taxes on employers – killing countless jobs in the process. We need to reduce business taxes to attract companies to Ontario, encourage investment and create jobs.
Second, we will treat energy policy as economic policy – not as a social program. Our energy goal is providing reliable and affordable energy to businesses and families – not political correctness.
Third, we will be the best partner small business has ever had. We will introduce a Small Business Bill of Rights, to ensure small businesses have every possible advantage to succeed and grow.
And we will end job killing red tape to let business focus on doing what they do best: sell their product, serve their customers, create jobs – not fill out endless paperwork. If we don’t reduce the regulatory burden by at least 30%, I will dock my own pay as well as my Cabinet’s.
Ladies and gentlemen, if we keep doing more of the same, we’ll get more of the same results of the last eight years. With an Ontario PC government, creating jobs will be job one.
The second opportunity we have is to rebuild the middle class.
The second half of the 20th century was defined by the growth of the middle class, driven by education, innovation, and sound economic policy.
For the expanding middle class, productive, well-paying jobs were easy to find.
Family incomes grew year after year.
Parents could afford to help send their children to college and university, and believed their kids would be better off than they were.
Middle class families – like the one I grew up in – were never rich, but led economically comfortable, secure lives.
What made Ontario great – was the success of its middle class. Where families could depend on safe streets and good schools – and lived in a place where you knew your neighbour – and liked them too.
Middle-class neighbourhoods were not just nice places to live. They were also crucial to our country’s economic success.
Middle class spending on new houses, cars, and other goods and services fuelled the economy.
The prospect of making it into the middle class encouraged lower income earners to work harder, and to stay in school.
And the achievement of middle class security also became a launching pad for even more economic success for millions of entrepreneurs and small business owners.
But in the last ten years, we have seen a “hollowing out” of the middle class.
In Ontario, middle class families are struggling to deal with McGuinty’s job losses, skyrocketing energy bills, new taxes and sneaky eco taxes.
Middle class incomes have stalled. A StatsCan report issued in June showed that median incomes in constant dollars have stagnated in Ontario over the past two years, while incomes in middle class-friendly provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan have grown significantly.
When it comes to middle class families, here, too, we have a different plan than Dalton McGuinty.
An Ontario PC government will help middle class families by leaving more of their hard earned money in their pockets. And we will help more struggling workers to make it into the middle class by supporting their education and employment opportunities.
First, we will reduce personal income taxes. We will give families tax relief by lowering taxes by 5% on the first $75,000 of taxable income. And as you know, lower income tax is the most effective way of creating new jobs.
We will change our tax system to allow income sharing. All couples will be allowed to share up to $50,000 of their income for tax purposes. A middle class family, earning $70,000, could save between $400 and $1,400 per year. This change is an important step towards recognizing that there really is such a thing as a family budget.
We will cancel the sneaky eco taxes on everything from light bulbs to batteries, from iPods to laptops.
Unlike Dalton McGuinty, we understand that heating and powering your home is not a luxury. That’s why we will remove the HST and debt retirement charge from home hydro bills and home heating.
We will support families’ efforts to ensure their children get a university or college education, a ticket to a middle class job. We will make student assistance funding available to more middle class families by making the eligibility rules more generous.
We will allow people receiving welfare and disability support to keep more of their benefits as they transition to part time jobs, helping people to break the cycle of dependency and take the first step to join the middle class.
An Ontario PC government will deliver desperately needed relief to help struggling middle class families catch up, and we will help more people join the middle class.
A third economic opportunity for Ontario is to improve our skills training and fix the paradox of high unemployment at a time of labour shortages.
Ontario is on the verge of a skilled labour market precipice. I’ve spoken to moms and dads whose kids want to become carpenters, electricians or plumbers, but these opportunities are scarce in Ontario. And so our young people are leaving for opportunities in Western Canada. I want that young talent to stay here.
The Ontario Ministry of Finance predicts that there will be over one million unfilled, skilled job vacancies by 2021 – just ten years away. And that figure could nearly double to two million by 2031.
Under Dalton McGuinty’s watch, Ontario is producing 46 percent fewer skilled tradespeople per capita than in the rest of Canada.
This is because Dalton McGuinty clings to an out-of-date system that serves the interests of union bosses and special interests, instead of aspiring tradespeople, small businesses, and job creators.
In Dalton McGuinty’s 1970s-era apprenticeship system, businesses are required to employ three, four, or five journeymen to train every one apprentice. This is a classic case of red tape that kills jobs.
An Ontario PC government will choose a different path.
We will fix our broken provincial apprenticeship system, bringing it into the 21st century. Today, I will be visiting the Pre Apprenticeships Training Institute in North York to meet with students who will benefit from reforms to apprenticeship rules that will create 200,000 apprenticeship spaces.
We will achieve this in part by reducing the ratio of journeymen to apprentices to 1:1 – a single move that will open up thousands of new opportunities for apprentices who want to build their career right here in Ontario.
Along with more competitive tax rates, reduced red tape, affordable energy rates, and more post-secondary opportunities, these changes will help fix Ontario?s skilled labour deficit, and create well-paying jobs.
Ladies and gentlemen, my grandparents came to Canada to make a better life for themselves, their children and their grandchildren.
I often think of the courage that it must have taken to leave their friends and families behind, to pack up all their belongings in a suitcase and to travel half a world away to start a new life.
Decades later, as the world struggles through a period of unprecedented economic crises, Canada represents – more than ever – prosperity, opportunity and hope.
And we can make Ontario a leader in Canada again. Not a have not province.
We can create hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs– not stand by as 300,000 manufacturing jobs disappear.
We can rebuild the middle class. Not continue to heap higher and higher taxes on them.
We can fix our skilled labour shortage and create skilled jobs for young workers. Not pander to special interests.
To get it done, we need change. We need new leadership that recognizes the enormous potential of our province and our workforce, and takes the steps we need to realize that potential.
We have never ever stopped believing in the great future of this beautiful province of Ontario, and its industrious, hard-working people.
I want my daughter Miller to have every opportunity to succeed that I had – and more.
We can do it. Ontario’s potential has no limits. But we need to make the right decisions – starting today.
Let’s work hard. Let’s free the job creators. Let’s unleash that entrepreneurial, can-do attitude on which the foundation of our great province was built.
If we do these things, ladies and gentleman, I promise you that Ontario can – that Ontario will – lead again.
Leader Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario