In conjunction with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Ms. Wynne’s party was recently asked to respond to our top five Business Priorities for the 2014 election. Here is what the Ontario Liberal Party says it will do to create a business climate that fosters investment and growth.
Business Priority 1: Tackle the Debt and Deficit
What specific steps will you take to eliminate the deficit and pay down the debt, while protecting core services that Ontarians value?
The Ontario Liberal Party is committed to balance the budget by 2017-18 in a fair and responsible way, and agrees with the OCC that across-the board cuts would hurt Ontarians and restrict our ability to balance the budget.
We have a strong record of fiscal management and achievement. We have maintained the lowest program spending per capita of any province. We have implemented around 80 percent of the Drummond recommendations, while rejecting those that would diminish public services. We’ve kept spending growth overall at around 2.2 percent over the last three years; less than the growth of the economy and inflation.
The Liberal Plan does not include increases in income taxes on low-to-middle income earners, and does not raise general corporate taxes. Instead, we will:
- Bring in a modest increase on income taxes for those who can afford it – the highest earning 2 percent of the population
- Continue to restrain costs through an expenditure review process that will find savings of $250 million for 2014-15 and $500 million for each of 2015-16 and 2016-17
- Continue to manage compensation costs
Finally, we agree that the federal government must close the $11 billion gap between what Ontarians pay in federal taxes and what we receive from federal spending and transfers. If Ontario was treated fairly, our deficit would virtually be eliminated.
Business Priority 2: Create a Better Business Climate
What will you do to create a more favourable climate for businesses and investment in the province?
Our province is one of the most competitive jurisdictions in the world for new investment: in 2013 we led North America in attracting FDI. Corporate tax rates in Ontario are the fourth-lowest in Canada and almost 15 percentage points lower than any of our Great Lakes competitors. We will create a dynamic and innovative business climate by taking the following key actions:
Energy: Working with the OPA, an Ontario Liberal government would expand and renew the Industrial Electricity Incentive. We will also continue to help businesses save by conserving electricity through our Industrial Conservation Initiative. We’ll expand eligibility to more consumers (3MW and up). Our aim is to continue the 15 to 20 percent energy savings that businesses are currently achieving through this program.
Red tape: This March the Ontario Liberal government introduced The Better Business Climate Act which, if passed, would have helped to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens. This new legislation and renewal of the associated “Open for Business” initiative will save business over $100 million and countless hours by 2016-17.
Taxes: The Ontario Liberal government has created a highly competitive tax system, especially for small business. We’ve reduced the general corporate income tax to 11.5 percent (down from 14 percent) and small business rate to 4.5 percent (down from 5 percent), with corporate income tax cuts delivering $2.3 billion of tax relief per year.
Further tax cuts before the budget is balanced, as proposed by the PCs, would recklessly endanger Ontario’s plans to balance the budget by 2017-18.
Business Priority 3: Invest in Critical Infrastructure
What specific steps will you take to address Ontario’s infrastructure deficit? How will you pay for them?
A re-elected Liberal government would commit up to $1 billion toward industrial infrastructure development in the Ring of Fire, with or without the federal government. Investing in this infrastructure is vital to the Ring of Fire development. Given the national significance of this project, the federal government should be supporting this, just like it does with nationally significant development projects in British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador.
A Kathleen Wynne Government will implement a 10-year infrastructure plan that invests more than $130 billion, including $29 billion for transit and transportation infrastructure projects across the province. We will create two dedicated funds for transit and transportation: one for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, with up to $15 billion available for investment in transit; and one for the rest of the province with nearly $14 billion available for investment in roads, bridges, transit and other critical infrastructure. This investment will introduce train service every 15 minutes on all GO lines. It will mean less congestion on the roads.
The plan includes a balanced and responsible approach to paying for these investments. The funds will be from dedicated sources of revenue:
- Dedicated gas tax, and HST on gas tax: $14.54 billion or 50.3 percent
- New revenues: $1.49 billion or 5.2 percent
- Asset optimization: $3.15 billion or 10.9 percent
- Federal Building Canada Plan: $2.55 billion or 8.8 percent
The funds will be allocated to specific projects between the GTHA and the rest of Ontario fairly, based on population.
Business Priority 4: Build a 21st Century Workforce
What are your specific plans to address skills shortages in the province?
The Ontario Liberal Party recognizes that the apprenticeship system is a key part of building the well-educated and highly-skilled workforce the province needs to compete in the current and future economy, and has a strong record supporting the growth of that sector in the last 10 years.
Since 2003, the number of apprentices has doubled to over 120,000 in 2013. New apprenticeships have also nearly doubled in the same period. In 2013-2014 alone, we have invested over $165 million in Ontario’s apprenticeship system, including programs that support apprentices and employers, capital investments for upgrades in state-of-the-art equipment, and loans to apprentices to buy tools and equipment that they need to kick-start their careers. These investments will ensure Ontario has the skilled workers it needs to succeed in our economy. Moreover, our investment in better labour market information means that students and their educators will know what jobs to train for.
Ontario Liberals are the only ones with a plan to invest adequately in infrastructure: our $130 billion, ten year building plan will mean thousands of good paying jobs for Ontario’s skilled workers, who will be among the 110,000 Ontarians directly employed by this plan.
Business Priority 5: Address the Pension Problem
How will you ensure that Ontarians are equipped with the resources they need to support themselves during retirement, without placing too great a burden on Ontario businesses?
The Ontario Liberal Party is committed to a strong and secure retirement income system to help ensure that Ontarians are better able to enjoy their retirement years. There are economic ramifications for not acting to avert the retirement savings crisis. Retired people make up a large percentage of the economy. If their spending power goes down, the economy will suffer. And if people don’t have adequate pensions, social assistance costs will soar.
We have a strong retirement income system in Canada, starting with the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). However, the CPP is not enough – the basic structure of its benefits has not changed since 1966. The maximum benefit is only $12,500 per year, and the average benefit is just $6,800 per year. Privately available options do not work well enough to make up the difference; in 2012, there was approximately $280 billion of unused Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) room in Ontario. Workers and employers must work together to help fund better retirement savings options. However, the federal government has rejected a nation-wide consensus of Premiers, led by Kathleen Wynne in Ontario, and is refusing to enhance the CPP.
We choose to lead. In the absence of federal leadership, as part of our 10-year plan, a Kathleen Wynne government will create the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP), the first of its kind in Canada. The ORPP will provide a predictable stream of income in retirement, funded by investment returns and premiums from employers and employees, and will operate at a low cost.