The number of business closures and job losses in Ontario continue to plague the job market, so Progressive Conservative (PC) leader Tim Hudak’s promise of a million jobs over eight years strikes a chord.
This latest policy proposal from Ontario PCs comes as the political parties in Ontario rev up for an anticipated provincial election in the spring.
With Ontario’s 7.9 per cent unemployment rate, which surpasses the 7.2 per cent national rate, and with Toronto’s unemployment rate at 10.1 per cent in December, it matters that Hudak is making jobs a front and centre issue.
To get people’s attention, politicians have to make catchy statements, so the promise of one million jobs is attention grabbing as it is a nice round figure. Other politicians will make hay with it but no reasonable person would hold him to that precise number. A closer look at the history of job growth even in the best of times previously in the province did not bring in the numbers Hudak is now touting.
He’s promising to do this by making adjustments that will attract businesses here. One old saw he’s using is to cut taxes…again. Hudak’s tax cut talk shows a lack of innovative thinking on the part of elected officials and their policymakers.
Politicians who tell the public that less government revenue collection is the answer to what ails us are making fools of the public. This province has been cutting corporate taxes for something like 20 years. It hasn’t resulted in a robust job market so far.
If tax cuts were the magic bullets, then the province’s employment climate would be in better shape. Corporate tax cuts have been the practice of both the Progressive Conservatives under Mike Harris and the Liberals under Dalton McGuinty.
Furthermore, it made no difference in terms of attracting business to the province when Harris froze the minimum wage at $6.85. Echoing the previous PC leader, Hudak wants to freeze wages for public sector workers. He seems to think whittling away at the deficit in this way would make the province more attractive to investors.
Yet, improving the province’s credit rating matters mainly for government borrowing purposes. It has a credible ring to it but in the real world where a growing number of people are learning to choose between paying rent and keeping the lights on it has no significance.
On the other hand, if Hudak wants to talk about government waste, then that makes sense to a lot of us who see our money wasted on spending we don’t agree with, like feathering the nest of executives who would then bill the public purse for things they can afford like a muffin and a cup of coffee.
More helpful for creating a business friendly climate, his proposals to reduce energy costs and to simplify regulations are practical for attracting business, but the elephant in the room for those talking about improving Ontario’s economy is the dependency it has on American consumer culture.
The artifice in Hudak’s proposal is that the U.S. economy is on an upswing which, given this province’s economic dependency on the health of the U.S. economy, should result in jobs showing up here eventually. So his unspoken hope might be to take credit for any improvement here while it would be the U.S. that we should be thanking.
Hudak also wants to improve trade regulations between provinces. The argument, which is not new, is that the way to improve the job market in Ontario is to remove trade barriers between provinces. But on this front there has been little progress over the decades. Moreover, he offered no specifics on how to get that moving.
The PC leader is set to present this job creating, deficit-fighting proposal as a private member’s bill to be tabled mid-February. It would require support of both the governing Liberals and the other party in opposition, the Ontario New Democrats, which should indicate that this is already dead in the water.
Better to see this proposal for what it really is, an early PC campaign strategy.