Finally, An Adult Has Come To The Election Party.
By Susanna Kelley
At long last, a mainstream political party has acknowledged the elephant in the campaign room and put forward a plan to tame it.
Despite the fact that the world economy is teetering on the brink of another recession; despite the fact that Ontario's manufacturing and forestry sectors have collapsed; and despite the fact the province lost 22,000 jobs in June - until now no party has seen fit to address the serious economic problems facing the province in this election.
Neither the Progressive Conservatives nor the NDP, in their platforms, have put forward a comprehensive plan to address the most serious issue facing Canada's most populous province: jobs and the economy.
Finally, one party has stepped up to the plate.
As you read on the ONW site last week, jobs and the economy is the centrepiece of the Liberal Party platform.
The party unveiled its campaign platform on Labour Day, and with it, put forward a badly needed, forward-looking, comprehensive economic vision for the province of Ontario.
It is the only party to have done so in this campaign.
Surprising, given the economic state of the U.S., Japan, Greece and a host of other European countries.
In a world where the job protection afforded by managed trade agreements like the auto pact have been stripped away by more and more free trade agreements, it's often seemed futile for Ontario to compete with countries like China and India with their poverty-level wages.
Governments have denied it's been a race to the bottom, but tell that to the hundreds of thousands of Ontarians who lost high paying jobs as companies moved production to China and while workers here were forced to subsist on minimum wage.
Finally, a political leader has put forward a vision that denies that's how it must be.
Here's Dalton McGuinty at the platform launch:
What a refreshing idea.
Mr. McGuinty believes we don't have to compete to work for the cheapest wages, if we become highly skilled enough.
Because if our people are highly skilled, foreign investors will beat a path to our door.
McGuinty's idea that education is the key to prosperity makes sense.
Ask anyone whose relatives came from another country - and that's pretty well all of us - and they'll tell you the same thing. If you want to live a better life, or provide your children with a better life, education is the surest route.
"If we want to out-work and out-compete the rest of the world tomorrow, we've got to out-educate them today," says the Liberal platform book, entitled "Forward Together."
Consequently the LIberals are offering a major incentive to families to send their children on to post-secondary education.
Mr. McGuinty told Liberals in a Toronto speech Monday that middle-class families - those with a family income under $160,000 per year - would receive a 30% across the board post-secondary undergraduate tuition grant.
The Premier says with a competitive tax structure, an attractive health care system and a highly educated workforce, foreign investment will come flowing in.
And he sees nothing wrong with foreign investment.
All of this is not an end in itself, Mr. McGuinty says. A well-paid workforce and a prosperous economy are needed to pay for things like health care, the environment, more assistance for seniors - things that make our lives better.
If the Liberal platform is lacking, it is that are no targeted incentives to attract industries doing advanced manufacturing. There are no targeted tax breaks, for instance.
Instead, the Liberals plan help for startup businesses. But put yourself in the place of a resident of a town like St. Thomas, Ontario, where Ford is shutting down this month and laying off 1,500 workers. Would you rather have a few small startups in your town, or another big company that needs thousands of workers?
And there are those in Northern Ontario who would be justified in wondering why the Liberals so casually - some say callously - let the forestry industry die. It's a decision that, my sources tell me, has put the Liberal candidates in jeopardy in northern ridings.
Still, the Liberal platform is indeed visionary when compared with that of Tim Hudak's Conservatives or Andrea Horwath's New Democrats.
Ask Mr. Hudak's candidates how they will create jobs, and they say they'll "cut red tape" for small businesses. Ask what that means and you'll be told, "there's thousands of regulations. Too many." What they don't say is which ones they will deep-six to create thousands of jobs.
Instead of laying out an economic plan, Mr. Hudak is spending the campaign performing juvenile stunts for the cameras, with props like a giant inflatable red elephant and the McGuinty tax-o-meter.
It's a replay of Mike Harris' 1995 campaign, right down to promising chain gangs for criminals - the 2011 version of the "kick them harder" strategy used by Harris against welfare recipients.
These tactics hardly make Mr. Hudak look like Premier material.
At least the NDP is offering tax breaks to companies that create jobs. But this does not an economic plan make.
Instead of an overarching pan-Ontario economic vision, both parties are banking on giving voters a couple of small tax breaks - a few more dollars in their pockets. Voters are feeling stretched, they say. Let's help them pay some of their bills.
The biggest help, however, would be high-paying jobs.
Neither the PC's nor the NDP, however, seem to be able to see the forest for the trees.
But finally, an adult has come to the election party.