Fair share for everyone in Ontario

TheStar.com – Federal Election – Fair share for everyone in Ontario
September 18, 2008. Len Crispino

Imagine an Ontario with 14,000 more nurses to care for us in our hospitals and long-term care facilities. Or 250 more MRI machines to provide quicker diagnoses of critical illnesses.

Imagine an Ontario where we could build 67,000 more affordable housing spaces for families struggling to pay the rent. Or with 15,000 more diesel electric buses in cities to reduce their carbon footprints.

Imagine an Ontario where 30 per cent more of the unemployed workers qualified for regular Employment Insurance while training for new employment.

And imagine an Ontario where new Canadians benefit from twice as much government support to help them settle into their new country and to find a job.

These ideas are not pie in the sky.

They could be realized if only Ontario received its fair share of federal funding. Ontario taxpayers simply can’t afford to continue subsidizing services in other provinces at levels greater than our own.

The numbers have become as familiar as our weekly lotto picks: $700 million less health-care funding, $1 billion less infrastructure funding, nearly $5,000 less for each unemployed worker. Each year when federal funding is distributed to the provinces for these vital services, Ontario’s share falls short.

The fiscal imbalance is certainly not a new injury to Ontario taxpayers. Looking back over the last two decades through several changes in government, at the federal and provincial levels, the wound has been diagnosed numerous times with battle lines drawn predictably along federal-provincial points of view.

Unfortunately, all this discussion has gotten us nowhere.

A few Band-Aids have been applied by successive federal governments to address some of the more obvious injustices. But no one has had the guts to once and for all implement a comprehensive and sustainable cure. Ontarians have been failed over and over again by their representatives in Ottawa, whether in government or opposition.

This is an issue that rises above party politics. It affects every man, woman and child in Ontario.

It affects every person who uses health-care services, every person who accesses training or EI, every new Canadian who makes their home in Ontario, and every person who drives on our roads or takes our transit.

In Ontario, we typically put Canada first and are reticent to advocate too loudly for our province.

The irony is that the fiscal imbalance and its effects on Ontario actually hurt Canada as well. Ontario is, after all, the economic engine of this country. A strong Canada simply needs a strong Ontario.

Earlier this year, TD Economics predicted that Ontario was heading toward “have-not” status, a warning first issued more than three years ago by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

If this forecast comes to fruition, TD points out that “70 per cent of Canada’s population will be in receiving provinces,” which “will represent a further squeeze on federal finances, since it will drive up the cost of the program.”

And even if we avert that crisis, as long as Ontario continues to receive less federal funding than its fair share, the province’s economy will continue to weaken.

The time has come for everyone in this province to tell our federal leaders that we can no longer afford to be shortchanged. That’s the purpose behind a new campaign called ActNowForOntario.com.

I imagine that each of you is concerned enough about this issue to act now for Ontario because you care about the future of this great province, for the future of our noble country.

I don’t think that idea is pie in the sky.

Len Crispino is president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

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