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Sensible ideas to get Ontario back on track

(Queen's Park Report - January 16, 2012) With over 560,000 Ontarians out of work and a $16 billion deficit that has only gone up since October, it’s plainly obvious that the time for action is well overdue.   Since Election Day, the McGuinty Liberals haven’t introduced a single proposal to stem the problem.  Given that they are out of ideas, they can gladly have ours.  Here`s how Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives would get our province back on track.

First, you have to stop digging the hole.  When Moody’s, the influential credit rating agency, put the government on notice that it may well knock down our credit rating if we fail to get our fiscal house in order, you’d think the government would get the hint.  
To the contrary, in 100 days since the election, the McGuinty Liberals have introduced $2.5 billion in new spending and not a penny in savings.  Evidently, nobody in the Cabinet has ever watched that TV programme “Till Debt Do Us Part.”

A prudent government would perform a top-to-bottom review of all spending areas to find efficiencies for priority programs and to determine “nice to have” and “must have” programs.  It would also undertake an assessment of every government agency, board and commission and ensure the termination of those that no longer serve a useful purpose.  

To get a better handle on things, the government should also have the courage to institute a public sector wage freeze.  More than $50 billion (or 44%) of all government program expenses goes to compensation, and by the Finance Minister’s own admission, public sector settlements under the McGuinty Liberals have been one and-a-half times more generous than settlements under any previous government.  

It’s only fair to ask public sector workers to share in the sacrifices being made every day by their struggling private sector colleagues.  Similar wage freezes have been instituted by the Liberal government in British Columbia, by Barack Obama’s Democrats in the United States, and by David Cameron’s Conservatives in the United Kingdom.  Ontario can and should do it too, saving taxpayers up to $2 billion a year.

A further $5.5 billion could be saved in the provincial treasury if the government would also introduce immediate annual two percent cuts to Ministry budgets, excluding health and education, and eliminate onetime spending such as stimulus programs.
More savings could be found with the introduction of alternative service delivery, which would require public sector unions to compete for government contracts, where appropriate, to ensure that taxpayers get the best value for their money.

An end to corporate welfare using taxpayer money is another measure that should be reviewed. This idea of government picking winners and losers in the marketplace costs the treasury over $2.5 billion a year.  Not only is this unfair, the results are definitely questionable.

Fixing the broken arbitration system is also a must.  The current mechanism handcuffs municipal councils and costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in excessive wage settlements.  Forcing arbitrators to consider the ability of the taxpayer to pay would be a significant step in the right direction.

The government owes it to more than 560,000 people trying to find work, and those worried about the job they now hold, to introduce a comprehensive package of job creation measures.  

Despite Ontario’s job crisis, we actually have a skilled labour shortage in the province.  Modernizing our apprenticeship system would help create 200,000 skilled trade jobs over four years.   We can do this by allowing employers to take on more apprentices and giving more responsibility to colleges to match apprentices up with employers.  

The government would be wise to also lower business taxes for job creators and oversee a rollback of the regulatory burden which actually costs us jobs through needless red tape.

All of these ideas are balanced, responsible and effective ways to get Ontario back on track, and while they may be Progressive Conservative ideas, the McGuinty Liberals are more than welcome to borrow any of them.  

Constituents who have their own ideas to address the jobs crisis or the state of the economy are encouraged to contact me through my website at  I welcome your input.

Jim Wilson, MPP

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