I’m now starting my second week of couch surfing, but that does not mean I haven’t been following the news like I usually do. The planned provincial budget vote (for Ontario) has held my interest for the last three weeks, since it’s defeat means the fall of the government and a new election. What actually happened in the end was Premier Wynne asking the Lieutenant-Governor to dissolve the 40th legislature of Ontario because one of the parties (the NDP) was not willing to support her minority government in the upcoming vote. Nevertheless, we have a summer Ontario election to look forward to. Yes, that was your sarcasm detector exploding in a fiery blaze.
I’ll be 50 years old this June, so I’ve been through my share of elections and the campaign promises that come with it. With each passing year (and every broken promise), I become more cynical of what each party says they are going to do once elected.
Let’s take that last statement to the next (and blunt and frank) level: I am firmly convinced all the main parties have no clue how to turn Ontario’s economy around, particularly where job creation is concerned.
I’ve taken the opportunity to study each party’s election platform, in specific how to deal with the chronic unemployment problem that I and other job-seekers struggle with. Starting with the Liberal Party, there’s a promise not to raise corporate taxes and to reduce small business taxes. That’s wonderful, except for two things:
a) Corporate taxes are already too high, which is why corporations have resorted to outsourcing jobs overseas and using the Temporary Foreign Worker program to replace Canadian workers.
b) The Ontario budget that triggered the election in the first place mentioned the creation of a mandatory Ontario pension plan that everyone has to opt into if they currently do not have a company or private pension plan. That’s actually a tax that hits both the employee and his/her employer. That will force employers to hire less while adding more financial burden on those working at or under the poverty line.
The Progressive Conservative Party has an ambitious plank in their election platform that involves the creation of 1 million jobs for Ontarians. To begin with, while i know Ontario has a serious unemployment problem, I do not believe it is actually that high so that number alone lends doubt to the validity of that promise. In addition, there is a reference to creating more skilled workers to fit the demand for trade jobs in this province. How? Through government funded career retraining programs? They already exist! It’s called Second Career! The problem isn’t the absence of these programs, but the eligibility for access to these programs. I have twice applied for Second Career funding, having filled out those dreadful forms. It’s like taking a prostate exam but with a pen and paper. A lot of questions to answer, a lot of qualifications to meet. In both cases, I did not get approved. If Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservative party want to help people be better trained in order to land a job, start loosening the requirements of existing career retraining programs.
The Ontario New Democratic Party’s platform mentions not only a mandatory Ontario pension plan (like the Liberal Party), it also will push for expanding the Canada Pension Plan, which means more deductions for both employees and businesses. In addition, they promise a push to increase the minimum wage and invest more money in health-care. On the latter, that money has to come from somewhere, and like then-Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal government did in the past, the NDP will likely raise the OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) deduction on our paycheques. Will we see eye exams and other previously de-listed medical coverage return to OHIP coverage? No mention of that on their election platform page. The most telling part of the platform is while it has hinted at actions taken by the current Liberal government as scandalous (google ontario liberal scandals for a list of examples that could easily fill the parking lot of a Wal-Mart), Andrea Horwath and the NDP party were the king-makers for past budget votes. They could have forced an earlier election yet chose to vote with the government and keep it afloat for another day. In other words, the NDP claims to be the defender of the taxpaper wallet, yet allowed a government to continue with decisions that no only had a profound negative impact of the economy of Ontario, it also supported scandalous actions taxpayers had to pay for (such as the gas plant being moved to favour the outcome of key candidates). Based on that record, would I really trust such a party to handle taxpayer-funded job-creation programs?
With all that said and done, my approach as both a voter and a job-seeker is to grill each party candidate in my riding (well, whatever riding I decide to vote in, since I am now of no fixed address) with the following questions (copied from my post on the comments section of the Toronto Sun web site):
* how much will each promise cost to implement and where will the money come from to pay for each?
* when will each initiative take effect? Ask for a date of completion. If the candidate starts waffling doublespeak, you know it’s not going to be a reality.
* ask who in the party is going to be responsible for making that platform plank happen. Get. A. Name.
* most important: who will bear responsibility if any or all of the promises are not implemented.
These questions are not unreasonable. After all, people currently working are tasked to answer those same questions asked by their immediate employer while working. As someone trying to re-enter the working world and also a believer that government serves the people (not the other way around), I feel I have a right to demand that any election promises made are worth more than the ink written on paper.
Thanks for reading!