Jim McDonell: This week at Queen’s Park

QUEEN’S PARK – MPPs returned to Queen’s Park on Tuesday from the winter recess. The session resumed against the backdrop of the looming provincial election with the government presenting estimates for debate in the House. The Estimates are proposals issued by the government that identify the operating and capital spending needs of ministries for the fiscal year. It has become abundantly clear that the current government has failed to tackle the province’s ballooning debt load. At present, nearly a billion dollars is being spent each month on interest payments by a government that ignores systemic deficits. The funds we are using to repay loan interest would be better spent on front line services that would directly provide help and support to those who need it most in Ontario. Estimates are a matter of confidence, and if the government loses confidence, it must resign. My colleagues and I did not support the continued driving of Ontario into more debt; however, the government’s majority stood solid.

During Question Period, jobs and job creation dominated proceedings. Many stakeholders came forward during the government’s official pre-Budget consultations to highlight that doing business in Ontario has become more and more difficult, while our competitors entice job creators with low electricity rates and tax breaks. As the provincial Budget approaches, employers are asking the government to listen and to make hiring, investing and expanding easier in Ontario. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t seem to be listening. Their initiative on the issue is a ban on certain American contractors from bidding on Ontario public contracts, if their state implemented a “Buy American” policy. Our country is engaged in delicate international trade negotiations and we are seeing a global market change by the day. Tit-for-tat protectionism conveys neither vision nor ambition. By creating a better business climate in Ontario, our employers would out-compete our American counterparts in our home market any day.