Philip Cross is the former chief economic analyst at Statistics Canada.
It is an article of faith among left-wing academics, analysts and pundits that the business community controls the agenda of politicians, who sit by their phones waiting for instructions from The Captains of Industry. If only that was true in Ontario, where senior government leaders plan new policy initiatives oblivious to their impact on business.
How the Ontario government works was summarized in former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s recent autobiography, Making a Difference, in which the business sector barely rates a mention. There is no discussion of the high-tech meltdown in 2001 that devastated McGuinty’s own stomping-grounds in Ottawa when Nortel and JDS Uniphase collapsed.
To McGuinty, the 2008–09 recession was notable because GM and Chrysler came begging for bail-outs, an apt summary of his paternalistic view of the relationship between government and business. Instead, sheltered inside their protective public sector bubble, McGuinty and his associates energetically attended meetings and conferences on formulating and measuring public sector services.
The detachment of the McGuinty and Wynne governments from the reality of business conditions is reflected in the creation of an anti-business climate more by design than by accident. Deficits have soared to be the second-highest per capita in Canada. By its own admission, Ontario has 380,000 regulations on the books, many of which fundamentally distort the relationship between business and its customers.
Electricity rates are the highest in North America. The minimum wage has doubled since 2003, with further increases now automatically indexed to inflation no matter what the reality of unemployment in a particular year.
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