Michael McCain is president of Maple Leaf Foods. This represents his view as an individual voter, not that of the company or its board.
The Ontario election campaign has featured a discussion of economic policy, and the role of government well into the future. Canadians are by nature, progressive and responsible. They are not radical, and it is time for rational Canadians to stand up to defend against the potential for radical and ideological government which, sadly, the Progressive Conservative proposals represent. As a pragmatic business leader who cares about our social commitments in addition to fiscal responsibility, I am prepared to be clear that a more balanced approach is warranted.
Notwithstanding the obvious “math challenges,” the PC’s “million jobs plan” just isn’t credible, and won’t have a positive outcome for the Ontario economy. In fact, I believe it is dangerous.
Cutting 100,000 valuable government jobs is neither practical nor prudent. Like any organization, there is always opportunity to improve, but there is no evidence that we even have a hundred thousand government jobs to cut without material degradation in the important outcomes these jobs support – a great education system, a great health care system, and the hundreds of other services we rely upon. Additionally, forward-thinking economists all are clear that radical cuts of this nature can have a detrimental effect on the economy beyond immediate savings. These 100,000 people contribute to this economy – they are likely your neighbors. Cutting taxes in Ontario today would be nice if was affordable, and certainly attractive to many self-serving agendas, but the evidence is that it isn’t necessary. It is important that tax rates be competitive – and they already are. Our tax rates are already lower than our competitors in the U.S., and further reductions are just not smart economic policy.
All this radical economic behavior, and for what? To balance the budget one year earlier than the progressive Liberal plan already on the table? Really? One year earlier?
What does our economy need today? Above all, it needs a response to the relentless competition from countries and companies that pay lower wages or have less regulation. Government has a critical role to play. It can help companies gain access to new markets. It can work in partnership with businesses that are upgrading their facilities to innovate, so that they can compete at home and in those new markets over the long-term.
We need a government that helps us find and develop well-trained employees. We need a government that understands our infrastructure in Ontario needs improvement – especially transportation and transit – and now is the time to do it.
We need a government that understands the quality of our education system (yes, class size matters), and our health care system is good for Ontarians and good for business. Slash and burn isn’t more efficient; it’s just plain slash and burn.
Don’t get me wrong. We do need to manage our debt responsibly. We do need fiscal prudence, and we do need to get back to fiscal balance. On that, there’s a broad consensus in the business community. We just don’t need to make ritual sacrifices on the altar of fiscal austerity.
More than anything, we need economic leadership today. In Kathleen Wynne, I see just such a leader who has an appreciation for the complexity of balance. She understands how to approach fiscal responsibility while maintaining a progressive society. We need her kind of leadership. We don’t need radical.
I’m happy to enter this debate because I believe in leadership and good, responsible government. On Thursday, I’m supporting Kathleen Wynne and her Ontario Liberals.