New Year’s Resolutions for Governments

As we head into yet another year of bleak to modest at best economic performance forecasts – I would love to have 12 pages of space to write down all of the resolutions I would like to see all three levels of government pledge to act on in the New Year. Wishful thinking aside, and with full understanding of the kind of economic turmoil that will persist around the globe, what follows are my limited but vital requests from our governments.

In Ottawa, the feds should resolve to continue the good work they have started with the US government in trying to reduce border delays between our two countries. They should also aggressively resolve to act on the implementation of a long-term infrastructure plan for Canada – one that has an investment strategy that includes solid funding models and increased private sector involvement. They should also resolve to remove disincentives that discourage seniors from working as a key strategy in avoiding the looming skills crisis.

And of course the feds will also resolve to not add any more to the national deficit even though they now tell us it will take two years longer than planned to balance the books. How you ask? Same as you and I. Don’t spend what you don’t have.

At the Provincial level, their resolutions (and quite rightly) should be far more abrupt. “We shall not under any circumstances spend any more than we take in” – EVER!

Ontario’s debt has become so obscene that we may soon be calling on Greece or Italy for financial advice. All kidding aside, Ontario’s soon to be $258 billion debt is the elephant in the room. And what’s worse is we keep adding to the total at a rate of $59 million each and every day. Imagine how many more things we could resolve in this province if we were not paying down that debt at a rate of $10.3 billion a year. Unbelievable!

It’s clear that Ontario’s debt is anything but sustainable and the only way we’ll ever get it under control is when we stop adding to it with chronic deficits. So if the revenue is not coming in as expected, your only alternative is to start cutting costs, but where to begin? In business the answer is quite simple – Everywhere and Anywhere. Does it get any simpler?

Locally there are a number of resolutions I would love to see Council pledge to act on. One would be to adopt a standard formula around the perennial issue of what to do with year-end surpluses. Far better this approach – than the annual drama that’s played out on Council’s stage that drives administration and most of the community nuts. It’s not that complex to figure out and many communities have already adopted the formula model to avoid such antics.

My resolution number two for Council would be to find a more diplomatic and sensitive way to tell would-be investors that their offers on our most prized industrial lands just don’t fit with our strategic development directions. Again, a standardized response delivered early in the game would surely avoid those nasty nose bleeds we seem to want to give ourselves in the media each time these events happen. Moreover, it may also prevent the internal bleeding we don’t see as some investors go away from London with the impression that we are in fact not open for business. And oh by the way, they can and do tell their friends.

Lastly, Council should resolve to take concrete action, if, as they claim, job creation is really Job #1 in London. And to create jobs you need to prime the jobs pump and that pump needs money – plain and simple. If we really want to put our money where our job creating mouths are, Council will need to re-align its priorities. How? By bringing funding levels for economic development and attraction up to at least per capita averages with those jurisdictions that we compete with. They will need to set aside more funds for economic development missions abroad in countries that hold the greatest promise for future foreign direct investments into London. Countries like Korea, China, Japan and Germany will need a lot more of our attention and time and both take more money along with patient (very patient) relationship building.

And we don’t need new money to fund these opportunities. What we do need is a full-on re examination of the funding we presently give to a wide array of external boards, commission and organizations who receive money from the City of London. To be frank, if they do not provide a demonstrable economic or social ROI to the City then monies will need to flow from them and go to where that ROI can be achieved and that is economic development.

It’s a proven fact that economic development does attract investment which does create jobs which does increase the City’s assessment which can eventually be channeled right back to those organizations that will need it in the future.

Yes, it’s the classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, but in this environment we need what Paul has to offer a lot more than what Peter is selling. Happy New Year to you both.


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Filed under Federal Policy, Municipal Policy, Provincial Policy

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