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Ontario business leaders losing faith

(February 8, 2017) The other day the Ontario Chamber of Commerce released a report that found businesses across our province are losing confidence in the economy.

Dubbed the Ontario Economic Report, 2017, it provides a snapshot of how chamber members feel about their own business situation, as well as the overall economy.

CBC reports that while "60 percent of members are confident in their own organization, only a quarter feel confident about Ontario's economic outlook."

That's unfortunate but the message is certainly in-line with what business leaders tell me and my fellow members of the Ontario PC caucus.

Karl Baldauf, Ontario Chamber of Commerce vice-president of policy and government relations, talked about the report during a recent interview with CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

"There's more prosperity – liquid assets – than there has been in the last decade or so," he said. "But [businesses] are not investing it because they are concerned about the state of the Ontario economy."

Allan O'Dette, president of the Ontario Chamber, also talked about the report's findings.

"Our research shows that Ontario's economic climate is posing challenges to the businesses we represent and Ontarians more broadly," O'Dette said in a press release, later adding: "We need immediate action in order for our province to continue to grow and prosper."

He notes that for several years Ontario businesses have "cautioned that regulatory burdens, high input costs, and government policies not attuned to innovation have hampered economic growth. The findings in the [report] reinforce this, and indicate that there are also structural issues impeding our province's potential."

As PC House Leader, I meet with business executives from across our province all the time. In pretty much every sit-down, I hear how company leaders are concerned about the economy, costly provincial red tape, and skyrocketing electricity rates.

The message is always the same. They like doing business in Ontario. They like the people that work for them. But the high cost of operating here makes it hard to plan long-term. Many question how long they can hang on.

Craig Wright, chief economist at RBC, recently talked about Ontario's high electricity rates while speaking to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.

"I think electricity is one of the many areas that makes Ontario investment less attractive than only a short while ago," he said.

And Norm Beal, chief executive officer of Food and Beverage Ontario, made similar comments to the committee.

"I can tell you that a year ago, I'd get a call maybe once a month from a small-to-medium-sized company saying they were concerned about electricity rates. Now that's happening at least once or twice a day," he said.

Rory McAlpine, senior vice-president of Government and Industry Relations for Maple Leaf Foods, also talked to the committee.

"I'm one that gets calls weekly from Indiana, from Wisconsin, from Michigan, from states that are constantly trolling the Ontario manufacturing sector to entice you're going to lose those smaller businesses that are ready to grow and create more jobs," he said.

Sadly, the Kathleen Wynne Liberals don't seem to care. What matters to them is holding onto power. They'll say and do anything. And as we get closer to the 2018 provincial election, you can expect more Liberal skullduggery.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: don't reward the Liberals for their bad behavior.

A Progressive Conservative government will make job creation one of its top priorities. We'll also get Ontario's fiscal house in order so that we can make meaningful investments in health care, education, and infrastructure.

Ontarians deserve a government that is working for them. They deserve a government that wants to make their lives better. And quite frankly that is not what they are getting right now.

Jim Wilson is the Progressive Conservative MPP for Simcoe-Grey.

To read the full report from the chamber click on the link:


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