PC leader stresses opportunity for business during feed mill visit

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown talked about the need for business-friendly policies after touring a local feed mill on June 18.

“We want to see businesses like this grow. The 200 employees that work here, these are good paying jobs and we want the conditions in which a business like this can succeed,” said Brown after touring Wallenstein Feed and Supply with Perth-Wellington MPP  Randy Pettapiece.

Brown, a 36-year-old MP from Barrie who won a leadership race over Whitby-Oshawa MPP Christine Elliott in May, said high energy prices are among the drags on business in Ontario.

With hydro rates that are “double that of Manitoba, sometimes triple that of Quebec, it puts Ontario businesses at a competitive disadvantage … and it’s one of the reasons that we’ve got to get our energy policy right,” Brown said.

“The fact that Ontario’s going to see a 42 per cent increase over the next five years under the Liberal government should be alarming to all of us.”

With the next election four years away, Brown, who does not yet have a seat in the Ontario legislature, said he will have a number of areas of focus in the coming months and years.

“Building the party infrastructure, making sure we have the party membership in every corner of the province, that we have a strong financial footing for the party. I want to make sure that we come into the next election well prepared both in volunteers and with the ability to run a campaign as extensive as  our  political opponents will run,” he stated.

“But I also want to change the culture of the party,” he added. “I said last night at a major fundraising dinner, it’s not just being against the other guys, I want us to be a thoughtful party and if something makes sense for Ontario and it originates with the Liberals and NDP, we’ll support it. It’s not limited to ideas that we raise as a party. And I think we’ve already started to show that over the last month.

“We’ve rallied behind an NDP motion on PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) for first responders, we supported the Liberals’ motion on financial literacy and their motion on interprovincial trade barriers. We will be a party that is always sincere and authentic and we will hold them to account where we believe they are leading Ontario astray  – and there are a number of areas where we believe we are doing that.”

Asked about the party’s approach to climate change and environmental issues under his leadership, Brown acknowledged, “Climate change is a real threat.”

He said, “I want to make sure that our party doesn’t just talk environmental policy, but we are actually contributing in a positive way. I worry that, with this government, it’s  environmental photo ops. You look at the Green Energy Act – we actually saw much of our own green energy diminished under that act. Essentially, it was for show. You look at the Great Lakes Act. It doesn’t provide a cent of funding to the Great Lakes. To pass an act to say you’re in favour of Great Lakes – everyone’s in favour of the Great Lakes.

“That’s like apple pie … they’re going to pass an act that says, ‘We’re in favor of apple pies.’ We need to be  a party that actually has thoughtful ideas, whether it’s protecting a park, whether it’s cleaning up the lake …”

Brown said he wants to focus on practical measures to improve the environment without burdening taxpayers.

“I want to build a PC party where our ideas for the province are about ways that you can actually make a difference on climate change, actually make a difference on the environment and not just be manoeuvres to grab revenue for government. I look at the cap and trade tax grab … the last thing we need in Ontario right now is another tax grab.”

Wallenstein Feed and Supply general manager Rick Martin said company officials had a good discussion with Brown about agricultural issues.

“So next time someone in Toronto says something about Ontario agriculture, he might know a little more about the truth,” said Martin.