So I took the time to look at the policy platforms of Ontario’s four main parties with a chance at winning seats in the legislature. Being a policy wonk I focused on what each party wished to achieve not the spin nor attacks. Each party has policy that will help Ontario become a failed state, and each party has policy that will benefit Ontario. I thought I’d share what I liked:
Like most of the parties the parties the PC policy is vague, wishy-washy and not very well detailed. Things that stuck out for me was changing apprenticeship rules to allow more people to receive apprenticeships, cutting corporate subsidies, province taking over some transit systems from cities, more skilled immigration, allowing retirement savings to be invested in Crown Corporations, smaller cabinet, program reviews, making mental healthcare a priority, teaching microeconomics in schools, and better care for chronic or homecare patients. I also like their local candidates, Jeff Bennett and Nancy Branscombe.
My problems with the PCs are the rest of their policy is either straight out of a previous century’s worst play book or the American Tea Party movement. I most likely will not be voting for the PCs because I remember how much pain the Province went through the last time.
The Liberals have been in power for a decade and it is a good time for some Churchillian “Crop Rotation”. On a website more concerned with me making a donation rather than informing me on party policy I did find a few ideas of value. Helping the vulnerable and transportation are the only things that really stuck out. The helping the vulnerable idea was undeveloped and timid. The transit plan includes finally getting high speed rail in Ontario, fifty years late and at a time when Magnetic Levitation or MagLev rail is being built in other parts of the world. Still, having trains that go 280km/h is a step in the right direction and the Provinces aging population it would be wise not to scare them with a 500km/h option.
The rest of the policy I found on the Liberal website shows how much they need some time in opposition to generate new ideas. Begging the Federal government, bribing people with their own money and more corporate handouts will not benefit Ontario. This government has reached the stage of inertia and institutionalized mind set.
Another timid party that regurgitates American Tea Party ideas and populism while pandering to people with their own money. Smaller cabinets, cutting small business taxes, reviewing past contracts and curbing the bloated pay, benefits and bonuses are all good ideas. The NDP also claim they will review programs, even having an entirely new department for it, to find more savings. There wasn’t all that much on the website to look at to draw conclusions on.
Voting NDP is unlikely for me because they have to many sacred cows and strong ties with special interest groups who hold Ontario back. They will never tackle climate change because the auto-sector unions will not allow them to. They can’t cut duplication of services because the public sector unions will prevent them.
Reading the Green’s website the first thing that stuck out for me was this; “A government should not fall because it fails to include enough bonbons in the birthday party loot bag that budgets have become.” found here. I like almost all of the platform, the only one with some details and costing, I won’t mention everything for fear of being branded partisan. The biggest concern I have is the campaigning to lose mindset that comes across, they say get the next government when they should be arrogant like the others and say ‘when we form the next government.’ Politics needs a killer instinct and these people are coming across as to nice. At the moment, however, the local Green candidate is the closest to getting my vote.
What I Would Add:
None of the above parties discuss opening an Ontario version of Quebec’s Charbonneau Commission, which, as I’ve blogged before, is essential for this province to move forward. Grand money saving schemes will fail without exposing the costs of corruption and eliminating it. I am willing to bet one of the recommendations Justice Charbonneau and her colleagues will have is for Ontario and another for the Federal level. Canada’s reputation in the field of ethics and transparency has taken a hit with the World Bank. Giving the Ombudsman more resources and power would be another great benefit to accountability in Ontario. For me, this should be the main issue the election is about, it could be costing us many jobs and opportunities.
Changing how the province funds local government could also have a vast shake up. Start by removing the local share of gas taxes for infrastructure, all of the gas tax should go direct to debt relief and deficit cutting. Most of the debt and deficit was spent on infrastructure for cars anyways. One percent of the Harmonized Sales Tax should be sent back to the community that it was collected in. Instead of the current property tax, waved developer charge regime let’s cost out a five percent per square for each; value capture tax, land value tax and land transfer tax. The value capture tax should also work in reverse, if local or provincial government does something to reduce land value the owner gets five percent back.
To create a MagLev network in Ontario and a supporting light rail network to feed the stations I would sell off all controlled access highways at full market costs and no strings attached. The stations would also house Service Ontario offices to get the Provincial Services card, a single card that acts as a driver’s license when handed to a police officer, a health card when at the doctor, a fishing licence, a provincial library card and so on. That’s right, a single library system combining all of the publicly run systems in the province. The poorer communities or the areas that balance budgets by gutting libraries will no longer suffer a lack of access. Wherever possible public services should be combined into single facilities or institutions to save maintenance and overhead while freeing up resources for under serviced areas. Imagine going in to report a bike stolen then coming out with a free smoke detector and advice on cleaning a nasty cut (that’s a police station, fire station and health clinic all in one stop).
Central heating in urban centres, an idea that can get rid of greenhouse gases, non-recyclable garbage and high heating bills. Industries, sewers systems, incinerators all generate heat that when combined with computerized thermostats can provide heat for houses, or even individual rooms. Those buildings with too much heat can get credits for sharing the surplus with the system. Using the sewer generated methane to burn garbage, generate steam to turn electricity turbines then heat a city’s buildings and hot water is the kind of innovation Ontario needs.
Many services provided by Ontario and the local governments are backlogged for lack of front end staff. When some parties talk of cutting civil servants it is normally the lower paid ones doing the work who are lost while the people managing them continue on. Adequate staffing levels should be a priority especially in areas such as the courts. Instead of paying to keep people awaiting trial how about hiring more prosecutors and judges to clear the backlog. Building inspectors are another under staffed group, Mike Holmes should not have had so many seasons showing how crooked contractors are, it is a failure to catch these people. Let’s toughen our building codes and have people enforcing them.
No matter where they’re created jobs are good thing, poaching jobs from other parts of the world is taking money out of the pockets of potential customers. Ontario needs to focus on creating jobs by supporting local start up centres, eliminating job killing no compete clauses, and having an ethical, transparent business environment. Shutting down the crooked businesses combined with breaking up monopolies and cartels will go further than bribing companies to bring old fashioned jobs. If we had the current level of protectionism, anti-innovation or subsidies a century ago we would still be supporting the buggy whip industry.
I could go on about other ideas to improve the province but I think my tea is ready plus education or healthcare could end up being their own posts. My vote, as said above is tentatively going to the Green candidate. If any other candidate/party wishes to win my vote they need to get out front and promise a Charbonneau Commission for Ontario. Not likely any of them have the courage too.