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It’s time for a fresh approach to Ontario’s power sector, one that recognizes affordable energy is a cornerstone of economic growth. We need policies that will keep prices under control for entrepreneurs, industry, and households alike, while ensuring that the system is reliable and sustainable. The provinces that have taken the right steps to assure a steady supply of power at fair rates are well positioned. Those like Ontario, where power rates are being driven up by expensive energy subsidies, are not. We need to change that. Government must get back to its proper, limited role. It should provide strong and independent regulation, conduct long-term planning, and establish a system where power is provided by companies competing to offer the best prices and most efficient technologies. Government does not need to micromanage every decision made in the power sector. Power prices affect all consumers and virtually every element of the provincial economy. High power prices cost jobs, they don’t create them. In order to expand the economy, our goal must be to generate affordable power. Ontario PC Energy Critic Vic Fedeli has put forward a white paper on affordable energy – the first in the Paths to Prosperity series – which pulls together some of the best ideas we’ve heard to focus the discussion on finding real solutions to the problem of rapidly escalating electricity prices.
Ontario has a traditional role as the economic leader of Canada. That wasn’t given to us. We earned it. We built this province through hard work, an entrepreneurial spirit and decades of government that spent within its means. In the last few years, Ontario has lost its way. We have become a province of smaller dreams and bigger government. While our economy has limped along, government spending has raced ahead. Economic growth has become decoupled from government spending, as if there were no relationship between what we can afford and what government spends. Now, we face a critical choice about our future. Either we implement the sensible policies that create jobs and prosperity wherever they are tried, or we accept a future of high debt, declining public services and living below our economic potential. The Ontario PC Caucus does not believe the role of government is to gently manage decline. We will not settle for mediocrity. The journey to jobs, prosperity and growth begins by setting great goals. Ontario can lead this country in job creation again, as it has so often in the past. We should accept nothing less. Some say two per cent growth in our economy each year is the best we can hope for. That means accepting a bleak future. Ontario can do better than simply crawling along, but to get there we must shake ourselves from the complacency of the last nine years. Kick-starting economic growth and addressing Ontario’s debt crisis are interdependent, not separate, goals. Two per cent growth will not balance the budget or put 600,000 people back to work. We won’t reach our economic potential as long as businesses are over-taxed and overregulated and investors are leery of our structural deficits and rapidly mounting debt. From my town halls and For Jobs and Our Economy tour across the province, I’ve heard first hand that people want a discussion about what comes next. They’re hungry for bold, new ideas. They’re willing to listen to fresh perspectives. Most important, they don’t see government as the whole solution. Government intrusion into the free market always distorts the natural balance between competing industries, products and services. The current government’s approach of picking winners and losers with grants, loans and subsidies has failed. This Paths to Prosperity white paper – the fourth in a series – proposes a very different approach of smaller, more focused government and a level playing field for all to succeed through lower taxes, freer trade and less government interference. We believe that we can rebuild our economy for the twenty-first century and recreate a strong, growing and confident middle class. Our big advantage is that Ontario has more of the greatest resource there is, and that’s people. It is Ontarians’ knowledge, ideas and hard work that will take us back to the top. We believe in the people of Ontario. Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition
Ontarians need hope that the province’s economy will improve and that there will be more opportunity for those who want it. Hope in itself won’t create change, though. Change requires action. One of those actions is a bold revision of outdated labour laws and workplace regulations that hamper Ontario’s ability to compete, to innovate and to develop a truly modern economy. It’s time for Ontario to re-examine outdated workplace rules that date back to the 1940s and adapt them to the much more flexible requirements of today’s employees. We must realize that labour flexibility and more opportunities for workers are essential to retaining and attracting the very best talent to our province. Of particular concern is a series of government policies that favour union leaders over employees and their employers in ways that reduce opportunities for individual workers and are obstacles to economic growth. Union leaders have become so powerful that many employees in effect have two bosses, their actual employer and the people who run their union. Mandatory union membership, forced financial contributions, closed tendering for government contracts, the artificial restriction on the number of our youth able to enter the skilled trades – these are not policies that foster the open, innovative economy Ontario needs. Ontarians deserve better.
The Ontario PC Caucus is focused on action to create jobs and grow the economy, but Ontario also needs to make difficult, fundamental reforms to improve the performance of our public sector. Nowhere is that more apparent than in health care, where we are still failing to meet patients’ needs despite a substantial increase in spending that has gone on for almost a decade. A better system that puts patients, not bureaucrats, at the centre of decision-making is part of our plan for a more prosperous Ontario.
A secure retirement is a matter of human dignity. People who have worked hard for decades shouldn’t have to worry about paying the bills when they finally leave the workplace. Ontario needs a plan that gives all workers a chance to have a good pension. Our pension system should be fair, not gold-plated for some and non-existent for others. How do we get there? Today Ontario workers find themselves in an all-or-nothing world when it comes to workplace pensions. Generous plans are the norm for many government employees while a majority of workers in the broader economy have no access to a workplace pension at all. For some workers, their pension benefits are being sharply reduced because their employers just can’t afford the level of generosity offered in the past. We believe in good pensions for public servants who dedicate their lives to public service. But in some public sector pension plans, the promised benefits are richer than individual employees and taxpayers can afford to fund. We need to end the soft deceit of governments that continue to make promises about benefits way down the road with no plan to pay for them. It’s time the Ontario government adjusted its employee pension plans to the realities of low interest rates, longer life expectancy and demographic trends like the retirement of the baby boomers. We don’t think it’s fair to ask someone without even access to a pension to pay higher and higher taxes to fund those with much more generous benefits. We know that many Ontario small businesses can’t afford to operate a pension plan on their own. That’s why we endorse the federal government’s effort to create pooled pension plans that are open to all workers. This type of plan is simple and affordable for employers to provide. It’s also portable for employees and recognizes that in our modern economy many people will change jobs several times throughout their careers. When it comes to pensions, time really is money. That’s why we think Ontario should stop delaying and get this new pension opportunity in place. It will take elected officials, business owners, unions and individual employees working together to solve the pension problem. The Ontario PC Caucus will address it, with a plan based on the twin principles of fairness and affordability. Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition
The years immediately following the next election must be a time of major change for Ontario, a time when we all work together to get our province back on its feet and creating jobs again. To achieve that goal, we must rethink how we run government so that it provides the services we need at a price we can afford. Ontario’s $14.4-billion deficit tells us that we are a long way from that position now. Without urgent action, the services we truly care about are at risk. That’s why we are proposing a New Deal for the public sector. By focusing on the core services that matter most to taxpayers, we believe we can create a leaner public service that delivers more value for less money. Our New Deal will have a clear direction that sets goals, measures outcomes, and then rewards the individuals who help us achieve those outcomes. We will value individuals’ innovation, hard work and delivery of top quality customer service. What we won’t do is give performance bonuses to 98 per cent of managers, just for showing up. Ontario’s civil service has not been producing the results the public needs, but the problem is not the civil servants themselves. It is political leadership that has no vision for government other than to make it bigger. The Ontario PC Caucus believes that is not a pragmatic or affordable approach. Our goal is clear. We need a smaller government that focuses on the things that government can do best. We will do less, but do those things better. This will require getting government out of businesses where it doesn’t belong. For example, when too many Ontarians are waiting to get vital health care services, do we really need a government agency borrowing money to offer online gambling to compete with PokerStars? Difficult decisions will have to be made to bring the size of the public sector in line with taxpayers’ ability to pay, but it is also a long overdue opportunity to renew and refocus our provincial civil service. We are confident that we will emerge from this process with an efficient and effective civil service to which people will be proud to belong. This Paths to Prosperity white paper presents our bold, new vision for transformational change in the public sector, and provides specific reforms for feedback and consultation. The Premier’s job is to provide the best public services and highest quality of life that our economy can sustain. A successful public sector relies on private sector growth. That’s why I am so strongly focused on creating new jobs and putting an end to the debt and government overspending that are holding our economy back. Those are my priorities and they come from the values of common sense and prudence that have long defined our province. I believe that it’s time to get government working for you again, and that’s what I will deliver. Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition
It’s the responsibility of the Premier and government to ensure that we have a growing economy. One that generates good jobs. One where people – with a little hard work – can get ahead. Ensuring economic opportunity is an essential responsibility of government, and only a growing economy gives us the resources necessary to provide core government services. But we also have a much broader responsibility. It makes the headlines less frequently but it’s just as important. We have a duty and capacity to support our most vulnerable people. It’s a duty to give them a hand up when they need it, and to ensure the best quality health care and social services are in place for those who, through no fault of their own, face incredible challenges. But the current system in Ontario is failing to do that, even though ministry spending is up 50 per cent over the last decade and 12,000 youth in need are on waiting lists for treatment. It’s imperative we find the courage to explore bold, new ideas to help our most vulnerable. As with all of our Paths to Prosperity policy white papers, I asked my PC Caucus to come up with fresh solutions to the problems we face in Ontario today. Where government currently fails, I asked them to consult the experts, the front line workers and those who rely on these services and their families, to be creative and, above all, not to reject any idea that could work. Some of the best and most current thinking on the delivery of social services for children right now is contained in this discussion paper, A Fresh Start for Children and Youth. Some of the ideas it contains like Social Impact Bonds – a cost-effective way of using the private and non-profit sectors to fund and deliver social programs focused on better outcomes, not bureaucratic process – are ideas that are already being used elsewhere around the globe and will deliver real results. Ironically, many of those who oppose these types of innovative policies are the same ones who talk about the need for compassion. But their approach – embracing a system that is failing to deliver – is the one that actually robs us of the ability to be compassionate in the first place. We won’t let inaction rob tomorrow’s youth of a fair chance and fresh start. Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition
Compassion is part of this province’s defining character. But compassion means helping people capture their full potential, not condemning them to a life of dependency. It’s been said many times that the best social program is a job. More than that, I believe work provides each of us with a feeling of self-worth, dignity and the independence and means to follow our individual aspirations. The incentive should always be to work and to contribute. To this end, we need to remove any government barrier that stands in the way. Today jobs in Ontario are hard to come by – we have a jobs crisis in this province that affects all of us, especially those wanting off welfare. Our first priority must be to restart economic growth. For people on welfare our goal should be straightforward: to help them rebuild their lives, develop employable skills and advance from the welfare system to new opportunities and stable work. But few people will say Ontario’s current social assistance programs are succeeding in that goal. With 800 government regulations, 240 eligibility criteria and nearly half a million people on welfare, we’re spending significantly more on social services each year than we are on training, colleges and universities. We need a new approach that focuses on outcomes, not process. All too often the value of a public servant is in helping to navigate the maze of the welfare system itself, instead of focusing on helping people find new jobs.This Paths to Prosperity white paper – the eighth in a series – proposes sensible ideas to streamlineand improve program delivery and to eliminate the hundreds of unnecessary rules that hinder ourability to help those in need. We also place a particular focus on leveraging the enormous untapped potential of those withdisabilities who are still significantly underrepresented in our province’s workforce. Where the current government has equated disability assistance with an inability or desire to work, we will take a different approach that leaves this outdated attitude in the last century with a vision that looks for every source of innovation and productivity. Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition
I say it’s time to get going on improvements to education. Among the many lessons I learned from my parents, both of whom were teachers in Ontario, was this:do well in school and you’re more likely to do well in life. Education is the most important advantage we can give our children and our society in general. It is the great step up – the broadening of a mind and the opening of one’s eyes. Education is the lynchpin of progress. I believe there is much that is right with Ontario’s schools, but there are opportunities to do better and risks if we don’t make some necessary choices. A subtle but significant shift has occurred between the time my parents were teaching and today.Low expectations, lagging test results, off-target spending and disproportionate power for education unions have all combined to hold back the potential of our schools. Teachers like my parents knew they had more than a job. They knew the path they had chosen was not one that would lead to personal wealth but one that would generate the satisfaction of making a child’s life better. Of the many teachers I know, these are still the motivations that drove them to choose the teaching profession in the first place. I know many teachers are frustrated by union leadership that shackles them, forcing them to operate as a 1950s-era assembly line. We have to do better if we want to give our children a fair chance to succeed in an increasingly competitive world. For nearly a decade, the government has tried to persuade parents that spending equals results. People aren’t that gullible. They want better education for their children, not more expensive education. We can set our schools on a different and more enlightened, productive course, if we choose to do so. To prepare our children for the workplace ahead we must sharpen our schools’ focus on basic skills like literacy and numeracy – including financial literacy. We must also raise our expectations for results across the curriculum, especially in science. And we need to trust in the fact that those closest to our kids – their teachers and principals – make better education decisions than big bureaucracies. Parents expect and deserve a first-rate education for their children. We can’t afford a “not bad is good enough” attitude in Ontario. That won’t give our children the chance of reaching their potential, and it won’t let our province compete against other countries that demand more of their school systems and better prepare their students for the twenty-first century. A great future for Ontario begins with the work we do in our elementary and secondary schools today. The effort we put into our children’s education will be directly proportional to the contribution they will in turn make to this province and its people. Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition
Everywhere Ontarians look there are signs of great potential for a growing economy and a rising standard of living, so while the past nine years may be the best this government can do, it’s not the best Ontario can do. We are in a fiscal crisis, on the path to tripling the debt. The current government has failed to show investors and the credit rating agencies there is a credible plan for stopping the reckless overspending. We’re putting out bold ideas like Freeze. Fix. Reduce. to get our fiscal house in order and ensure scarce tax dollars go to the things people care about, like front-line health care and classroom education. Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition
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