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Time for a new economic plan says Wilson

(Queen's Park Report -- July 30, 2008)  How many people have to lose their job before Premier McGuinty realizes that the government’s economic plan is not working?  

This week we learned that Bell Canada will shed 2,500 management positions from its operations, which follows on the heels of Ford’s announcement last week that it will be cancelling one of its assembly lines leaving 500 workers unemployed in Oakville.  Those job losses pale in comparison to the over 45,000 jobs lost in Ontario last month alone – the highest monthly loss since 1990.

This troubling news should give cause for Mr. McGuinty to devise a new economic plan based on real and updated numbers because we now know that many of his most basic assumptions in the last provincial budget are proving to be totally off track.

On economic growth, the budget pegged GDP growth at 1.1% while figures from the TD Bank now suggest the economy will grow by 0.5%, at best.  The budget also predicted inflation to be 1.4% while numbers released in June indicate inflation is running at 1.8%.  

Mr. McGuinty thought retail sales growth would hit 3.4% but the results from March and April shows only 0.7% growth.  And then there is the price of gas.  It is about 30 cents higher than their forecast of 101.4 cents per litre, and as the government warned at the time, every cent per litre increase in the price of gas costs the government $5 million.  But I guess that pales in comparison to their statement that the budget would only be balanced if the government was able to find $1 billion in “efficiencies.”  When you consider that the only job growth in Ontario has been in the public sector, I really can’t see any evidence of any success on that front.

The discrepancy in the budget figures begs the question: How does Mr. McGuinty plan to deal with any shortfalls?  Will it be through budget cuts, more tax hikes or a larger deficit?  We deserve to know the answer.

The P.C. Caucus has developed a five-point plan to turn Ontario’s economy around, and it starts with competitive taxes.  We have the highest rate of taxation on new business investment in all of Canada and it is among the highest in the world!  That must end.  Every other province in Canada has done this.

We need a real skills and training strategy that isn’t just a grab bag of inadequate Liberal programs that don't take full advantage of one of our greatest assets - our college system.

We need public sector restraint. Those who earn more than $100,000 in the Ontario public sector has grown by 27 per cent in one year, while Ontario continues to be the only province where public sector job creation outpaces the private sector.We need regulatory sanity. I meet regularly with business people in our riding who tell me stories about being bombarded by government inspectors and auditors who seem to show up for no other reason than to place unnecessary hurdles in the way of job creation and prosperity.  In fact, I spoke to a local man last week who needs to build an irrigation pond for his business but was told by the government that he would have to hire a consultant and undertake a number of studies over the next six months.  As he said, “Jim, I won’t be in business in six months without this.”  Luckily, I was able to intervene and rectify the problem, but this stuff should not happen in the first place.

Finally, we need short term relief which will help families and businesses as well as provide a bit of good news in these trying times, such as John Tory’s proposal to eliminate the retail sales tax on hotels and attractions during the summer months.

Ontarians are losing jobs, families are losing paycheques and communities are losing hope.  Mr. McGuinty ought to realize that his government’s plan is just not working.

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