QUEEN’S PARK – Leader’s Ledger – When the axe fell at Electro-Motive in London last week, it was another sign our once-great province is quickly becoming an uncomfortable place for business to do business. The families who are directly affected by the closure know this all too well: Something has gone wrong in Ontario.
Our stature in the ranks of the world’s economic powerhouses has eroded. Our allure as a favoured destination for newcomers has faded. And, for the first time in the history of Confederation, Ontario is a have-not province.
Evidence of this abounds: A short time ago, Statistics Canada released its monthly unemployment figures for Ontario. Nearly 600,000 men and women are now looking for work. Think of the combined populations of Burlington and Brampton, with nothing to do.
It wasn’t long ago Ontario led North America in job creation.
Now we don’t even lead Canada. Outside the Atlantic provinces, Ontario under Premier Dalton McGuinty has suffered the lowest growth in full-time jobs.
We’ve lost 57,000 jobs just since the October provincial election, which represents more than double the job losses of all the other provinces — combined.
More recently, StatsCan reported Ontario logged the lowest rate of average weekly earnings growth of any province over the previous year. And not a single, meaningful step has been taken to address any of this since then.
McGuinty would have us believe it’s all the Eurozone’s fault, when clearly our fiscal and unemployment mess is entirely home-grown: Take as evidence the fact January marked the 61st consecutive month our province’s jobless rate has been above the national average — long predating the global economic turmoil we’re witnessing now. The root of our trouble reaches back years, not months.
Despite all this, I believe the strengths and virtues that helped build Ontario still exist – but that they’ve been overtaken by a defeatist attitude: resigned to government that always gets bigger, spending that always increases, taxes that always rise, deficits and debt that never cease piling up and jobs that will simply be lost, never to return.
My appeal to Ontarians is to reject this defeatism. Our manufacturing might can return. Our vast and resource-rich North is a treasure house, not an outdoor museum. Energy policy is an economic fundamental, not a play thing for social engineers. Businesses, job creators and innovators want to be asked in, not chased out.
Ontarians know instinctively that a better future really is possible, but that to get there government must get smaller and do only what it needs to do. Spending must fall, taxes must be lowered, deficits and debt must be reversed and jobs can be created — if only government would get smaller, get smarter and get out of the way.
We just need someone to lead the charge. This is why my Ontario PC Caucus colleagues and I have worked hard since last October’s election to table a series of constructive policy ideas that herald a practical, positive and, yes, conservative vision for Ontario that rejects the kind of government that creates jobs only for itself.
As Leader of the PC Party of Ontario, my task is not simply to defeat Dalton McGuinty in the next election. It’s to confront the task that begins the day after: To rebuild a proud, strong, confident Ontario that stands astride Canada again.
Leader, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario