Job creation requires a government we can afford
TheStar.com – Opinion/Commentary – If we want to create jobs in Ontario, our first priority must be getting the deficit under control.
Jun 02 2014. By: Tim Hudak
When you hear from leaders in an election campaign, you deserve the plain truth about where we stand, and why. I have been clear from day one that my party’s sole priority is job creation.
The foundation of our Million Jobs Plan is a balanced budget, and ending Ontario’s debt spiral. Families understand that it’s wrong to pile debt onto our children and grandchildren. But there’s an even more urgent reason: job creation.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s top priority for the provincial budget is balancing the books. Why? Because well-run businesses want to locate plants and jobs in well-run provinces.
The McGuinty-Wynne government is borrowing an extra $4,100 a year for every family in Ontario. That’s not the balance on your share of the credit card — it’s the amount the balance goes up every year. $4,100 is a lot of money for my family, and I bet it’s a lot of money for yours.
We cannot go on borrowing $4,100 more per family every single year, forever. If you tried to pay your mortgage every year by taking out another mortgage, the bank would stop lending to you. It works the same for governments. In many countries, from Ireland to Greece to Spain, lenders have forced governments to fix spending problems their way. And when that happens, things get very ugly, very quickly.
How bad is Ontario’s debt problem? Unfortunately, it’s very bad indeed. Ontario’s projected annual deficit for 2014-15 is twice as big as the deficits of all nine other provinces, plus the federal government, put together. It has gone up, not down, for the last two years. The Liberals have doubled our debt, and Ontario’s debt per person is an astonishing five times as high as California’s.
There’s only one way to balance the budget, and that’s to spend less. When well over half of every dollar of spending goes to salaries and benefits for government workers, spending less means having fewer government workers. That’s why we have said very directly that a balanced budget means going from 1.2 million government workers today to 1.1 million — the number we had in 2009.
I take no joy in doing this. But it has to be done, and we can do it carefully and sensibly. Nobody thought we had a shortage of government employees in 2009, and we can deliver great front-line services with 1.1 million, when we set the right priorities.
Kathleen Wynne will not take this vital action to balance the books. She said this week that she wants “the same number of public sector employees . . . or more.” She will not name a single position she would eliminate — as if all government workers were equally important.
We disagree. We will protect professionals who deliver essential services: nurses, doctors and police officers. And we will eliminate the do-nothing provincial bureaucracies, like the Ontario Power Authority that oversaw the gas plant scandal and the Local Health Integration Networks that just create paperwork and don’t see a single patient.
Our first choice is always to reduce positions through attrition (not filling vacancies when people retire or leave voluntarily). Attrition of government workers is over 5 per cent per year, or about 200,000 over four years. You might think that means we could reduce the size of government entirely through attrition. But when a nurse retires, we need to fill that vacancy with a new nurse. And not everybody at the Ontario Power Authority is going to retire next year — but we can’t just keep funding that useless bureaucracy until they do. So some employees in wasteful administrative bureaucracies will have to get some of the many new private sector jobs instead.
Some of the reduction in the size of government will also come through opening up government services to fair competition. GO Train service is delivered by Bombardier, not by government workers. There is no reason GO Bus service can’t be contracted the same way, for better value. When a position is contracted through fair competition, it doesn’t go away; it just moves out of government.
Ontario’s jobs crisis is directly linked to our government’s debt crisis. To get our private sector growing again, to create a million new jobs, we must start by reducing government to the size it was in 2009. Only the PC party has told you this simple truth, and only our party has laid out a clear, careful achievable plan to reduce the size of government. I invite you to read our full plan for job creation at millionjobsplan.com.
Tim Hudak is leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.
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