As the rhetoric heats up about whom to vote for or not to vote for in the upcoming October Provincial elections, it becomes all too easy to get caught up in the political jargonisms, mudslinging, and character slamming we are all familiar with here in Ontario. But what is really, truly important to Ontarians usually gets lost in the shuffle. The following may help to sharpen your focus when contemplating which party is best equipped to take on these difficult challenges and move Ontario out of the economic doldrums we find ourselves in.
For starters, Ontario is facing a very large deficit and with that a fast growing debt. You can add to this rapidly increasing energy costs and a crumbling infrastructure. The next Ontario Government will face tremendous challenges in attempting to cut costs while at the same time maintaining key public services. Our best prospects for success in these times will depend on bold leadership by Ontario’s political leaders and by its business community.
Clearly now is not the time for business as usual. For Ontario to confront the challenges that lay ahead, its political leaders must develop innovative ideas on how to tackle the top priorities of the business community ‐ red tape, debt and deficit reduction, innovation and R&D, as well as affordable and sustainable energy
To make matters worse, the next government will have the complicated challenge of managing health care costs to avoid negatively impacting investments in other public services. The ability to manage health care costs is critical to making strategic investments in economic priorities such as R&D and energy and it will be a critical determinant in attracting new inbound foreign investments.
Further trouble for the next government can easily be forecasted in Ontario’s transportation system which is arguably one of the most congested and inefficient in the world. Ontario’s next government needs to address this situation through targeted support for reliable and sustainable transportation infrastructure.
From a purely business perspective, we at the Chamber have argued for many years that reducing red tape is a key priority for strengthening Ontario’s economy. It is imperative that Ontario’s next government advance regulatory reform as a top government priority to drive economic growth. The annual cost associated with red tape in Canada is an estimated $30 billion so it’s not an issue to be taken lightly. Regulatory reform is not simply about reducing the number of rules. The government must adopt a new culture which recognizes businesses as valuable partners in achieving economic growth along with higher social and environmental standards.
All levels of government must work together to ensure consistency in the application of regulations. A one‐size fits all approach to regulation is out‐of‐step with the needs of the business community. Ontario needs an approach to regulation which encourages business‐led solutions to social and environmental sustainability.
REDUCING THE DEBT/DEFICIT
Ontario emerged from the recent economic downturn in the worst fiscal position of any province or territory in the country. The next government will need to implement short term‐actions and long term planning to ensure Ontario’s economy continues to flourish.
Municipal governments provide many key services needed for economic development, but are financially over‐burdened by spiraling operating costs such as public sector wages. The next provincial government must ensure that municipal governments have the capacity to stimulate regional economic growth through greater accountability measures and wage restraints.
Raising taxes to address the structural deficit is not sound economic logic. Strengthening
Ontario’s tax advantage will bring foreign direct investment and jobs to the province. The next Ontario government should stimulate growth in this time of uncertainty by striving for greater efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of public services.
Canada continually receives low rankings on its innovation performance, with Ontario businesses consistently investing less in R&D than other jurisdictions. Innovation must be market‐driven to be effective. Ontario’s government needs to work closely with business to address the key barriers to innovation.
Many small firms find that innovation is out of reach for them. Ontario’s next government must help small Ontario firms leverage their capabilities through enabling strategic partnerships with innovators.
Adequate financing, whether in the form of R&D programs or venture capital, is key at all stages of the innovation process. Ontario’s next government must support innovative ventures through a healthy mix of innovation financing
SECURING A SUSTAINABLE, AFFORDABLE ENERGY SUPPLY
Ontario’s future economic growth and prosperity will depend on our ability to remain competitive in an increasingly global marketplace. A stable, abundant and affordable energy supply is fundamental to Ontario’s competitiveness. The industrial hydro rate has been cited by many companies as the main reason for closing the doors to Ontario facilities, especially in Northern Ontario.
The Government of Ontario should promote investment in new energy infrastructure such as green energy and nuclear. It should provide long‐term planning for supply and energy affordability and foster conservation. And it should maintain a predictable and stable regulatory framework.
Now, just figure out which party is best equipped to manage all of these challenges and voila! Ontario can get back to being Canada’s economic engine. Ask your candidate how he/she plans to deal with these challenges – measure their responses, check their records and vote accordingly. Good luck.