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We face the biggest jobs and debt crisis of our lifetime. This crisis requires confident and meaningful action. Last week I attended meetings of the Rural Ontario Municipalities Association (ROMA) – meetings ranging from Asian Carp to Nanticoke’s Industrial Park, to Caledonia’s stalemate. The theme of the ROMA conference was Adding Up The New Fiscal Reality.
How did we come to this “new fiscal reality” in Ontario? It wasn’t by accident. But rather, through a series of deliberate choices. A deliberate choice to sacrifice our traditional advantage of low energy rates, for unaffordable subsidies to wind and solar; A deliberate choice to divide Ontario along rural and urban lines; A deliberate choice to spool out red tape at a cost of $11 billion a year; A deliberate choice to turn government into our only growth industry – adding 300,000 government jobs as we lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs.
These deliberate choices have made us first in debt and last in jobs.
To create jobs in Ontario we need to lower taxes on businesses so they can invest. Some will say tax cuts mean the government will have less money to spend. They’re wrong. They ignore a proven reality: with tax relief comes economic growth. More people working means more tax revenue.
We must make the best use of that tax revenue coming in. Case in point: the gas tax. Right now, we pay the same gas tax whether we live in Toronto or Haldimand. But you only get money back if you’ve got a subway or a bus. Last week, MPP John Yakabuski tabled a bill to fix this problem. This bill would see all Ontario communities get a share of the gas tax put toward whatever their local transportation infrastructure needs are – not what Queen’s Park says they should be.
We must also lift the heavy hand of government. Let’s start by reducing Ontario’s 300,000 regulations by at least a third. Government shouldn’t make rules just because it can or just to keep bureaucrats busy.
It’s time to fix a broken arbitration system that imposes big city wages and benefit agreements on small town assessment bases.
Energy used to be an economic strength for Ontario and for decades we offered businesses and families affordable and reliable rates. Now they are among the highest in North America, and keep climbing. Energy is an economic fundamental, not a laboratory for failed experiments. We must end costly wind and solar subsides and restore local decision-making.
To protect the things we care about we must reduce the size, cost and role of government. Anyone who tells you they can eliminate a $12 billion deficit without reducing spending is either naïve or thinks you are. Approach government the same way people approach their businesses – set clear goals, measure outcomes and then reward individuals who help achieve those outcomes. We need to create a leaner public service that does more with less.
People are longing for change. The province we live in can no longer provide the future we hoped for. The answers to our problems aren’t hard to figure out, they’re just hard to do. Only if we are willing to try, will there be benefits for all. For the Silo by Toby Barrett