Have-not status not OK

For the second time in 40 years, Ontario fits Ottawa’s financial calculation for being deemed a have-not province. This will be the first time the province actually receives top-up funding from Ottawa.

To many residents of our province, this is a significant black-eye. Since Confederation we have been known as the industrial engine of the country. More significantly, the province of Ontario accounts for 38% of the country’s total population.

Clearly, the ailing manu­facturing industry has a lot to do with the troubles we face. Our local MPP, Ted Arnott, has decried government inaction for a number of years now. Most of the concerns raised by him seem to be offset by claims of new jobs replacing the old. Success stories offset the closures named in the News, but rarely is the true economic difference reported. Now that Ontario is noted as a have-not province, perhaps some reflection will take place about why we are in the position in which we find ourselves.

The simple fact is the provincial and federal governments have let down the manufacturing sector by allowing the importation of goods that do not meet high standards we demand of our manufacturers in North America.  Electrical standards seem to vary immensely, with many imported goods requiring additional inspections to pass our provincial codes. Also, the safety standards and general environmental conditions found outside of Canada are also different. Surely we cannot expect strongly regulated workplaces with well paid workers to manufacture goods for the same price point as underpaid, poorly regulated factories in the Third World.

Ontario’s plunge into have-not status has much to do with the entrenched attitude that the price should be the ultimate determination in whether jobs stay here or get exported to cheaper climes.

While the top-up money is a bit of a slap to the ego, there are cycles in economics that prove as a wake-up call and this is one of them. Politicians need to be vigilant at all times to ensure taxation, whether municipal, provincial or federal, is reasonable. There is also a need for demanding fair trade, rather than relying on free trade to meet consumer needs.

Given time, Ontario will bounce back. But managing the economy requires far more than a shoulder shrug when questions are raised about the financial health of the province.