ONTARIO VOTES 2007: Canadian Plastics talks to the Ontario Liberal Party
Canadian Plastics asked a series of questions of the leading candidates for premiership in the upcoming Ontario pro...
Canadian Plastics asked a series of questions of the leading candidates for premiership in the upcoming Ontario provincial general election, to be held on Oct. 10. Below is the response of Premier Dalton McGuinty, of the Ontario Liberal Party.
If re-elected, what do you hope to do for the manufacturing sector? What, in your view, are the major issues facing the manufacturing sector in Ontario today?
Ontario Liberals recognize the vital contribution that the manufacturing sector makes to the Ontario economy, and will continue our efforts in ensuring businesses have an environment where manufacturing can prosper. The manufacturing sector is facing a number of challenges, including a strong Canadian dollar, competition from lower-cost jurisdictions, weakening U.S. demand, future skilled labour shortages, and energy and commodity costs.
We will build on the initiatives our government has put in place over the past four years, including the Ontario Automotive Investment Strategy, our Advanced Manufacturing Investment Strategy and our Next Generation Jobs Fund. This fund which we have committed to expand to $1.15 billion will help attract the next generation of investment in leading-edge and green technologies in the province.
The manufacturing sector in Ontario is operating under enormous pressures, ranging from the strength of the Canadian dollar to foreign competition. What local strategies would you propose to enhance the skills and competitiveness of the manufacturing industries in Ontario?
Skills development has been, and remains, a priority for our Liberal government. To help ensure ongoing skills development, we have signed the Labour Market Development Agreement with the federal government, are creating 6,000 new apprenticeship spaces every year, and are increasing our investment in English-as-a-second-language classes.
We have also worked with the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) to reduce the regulatory burdens facing the industry. Additionally, we have provided a single-window access to information source for small to medium-sized businesses to assist them in achieving compliance with regulatory requirements through our ServiceOntario website at www.serviceontario.ca/plastics.
To help companies address cost pressures, our government has undertaken a number of initiatives, including matching the federal governments accelerated capital cost depreciation, which allows companies to write off the value of machinery over two years. Our plan to eliminate the capital tax by 2010 is making it easier for companies to invest in new technology and innovation to improve their productivity. Our plan to reduce the Business Education Tax will also save companies across Ontario over half a billion dollars. And our agreement with the federal government to harmonize corporate tax collection will save businesses $190 million annually in reduced taxes and reduced compliance costs.
What is your vision for the manufacturing sector in Ontario? Please elaborate on your answer.
Manufacturing continues to be an essential component of the Ontario economy, and I am confident that the manufacturing sector in Ontario has a bright future. Ontario Liberals will continue to promote this sector and explore ways to further Ontarios reputation as a world leader in innovation. The Ontario Manufacturing Council, which we announced in the 2007 Budget, will be invaluable in providing advice on the future of the manufacturing sector.
The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade has worked with CPIA, including investing funds in CPIAs technology roadmap, to chart the future of the industry and how we can co-operate to get there together.
How familiar are you with the plastics industries in Ontario, or the manufacturing sector at large? What is your knowledge of the issues surrounding these industries?
Ontario Liberals recognize that the plastics industry is the fourth-largest manufacturing industry in Canada, behind only auto assembly, oil and gas, and auto parts manufacturing. Plastics processors are also the largest manufacturing employer in Canada, with 60 per cent of the plastics industry in Ontario and 62 per cent of that in the GTA. Including resin producers, and machine and mold makers, the industry has a $50-billion value in Canada. We will continue to work with the plastics industry to ensure it is a strong contributor to the Ontario economy.
The mold, tool and die industry, particularly in areas like Windsor, seems to be fighting an uphill battle. There have been several mold shop closures in the last two years, which have a negative impact on the industry and the local economy. Please briefly explain how an Ontario government lead by you would help this embattled sector.
In the last year, Minister [Sandra] Pupatello has led three separate trade missions to Alberta, including the Buyer/Seller Forum in March, accompanied by a number of prominent tool and die companies in order to build partnerships with companies in the booming Alberta oil sands. Ontario manufacturing expertise in tool and die, particularly in steel fabrication and machining, is in high demand in Alberta. The partnerships forged between Alberta and Ontario companies in this regard have generated new business and secured lucrative contracts.
We have had several roundtables with leaders in the tool and die sector to better understand the challenges faced by this industry and to develop strategies to assist the sector in dealing with those challenges. Through the Communities in Transition Program (CIT), we have provided funding to the Windsor Essex Economic Development Commission to develop local initiatives to assist and diversify the Machine, Tool and Die sector. Under the CIT, we have also provided $410,000 to the Canadian Manufacturing Agility Forum to study how the sector should evolve to better compete in a global economy.
We will continue to work with the mold sector to find ways to grow and enhance the competitiveness of the sector.
The current government has offered grants and funding to Ontario companies, especially in the area of technological innovation and R&D. What kind of funding would you devote to the plastics industries?
We believe that our approach to promoting research and innovation is an essential tool for attracting investment and growing our economy. We will continue this approach both through our Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Strategy and our Next Generation Jobs Fund. I am particularly intrigued by the BioCar Initiative and the plastics industrys participation in this exciting project. By being at the forefront of green technology, and combining that with Ontarios wealth of expertise in auto assembly and auto parts manufacturing, Ontario companies are helping to ensure future success.
Union leaders and manufacturing workers have expressed frustration over the number of job losses in the sector. As a leader, what kind of strategy will you employ to curb or significantly reduce the number of lost jobs in this sector?
By championing the auto sector, our $500-million Auto Investment Fund has attracted $7 billion in new investment, created or protected 7,000 direct jobs and, for the first time since the car was invented, Ontario has surpassed Michigan as the continents leading auto producer for three years running. Our Advanced Manufacturing Investment Strategy has generated over $670 million in new investments in the province, creating and retaining over 4,000 jobs.We have also invested $1.7 billion in our innovation and commercialization program to turn great Ontario ideas into great Ontario jobs. If re-elected, Ontario Liberals will expand our Next Generation Jobs Fund to $1.15 billion to support job creation in areas of great potential for Ontario:
- Clean automotiv
e and other green technologies
- Health and biotechnology research and development
- Creative industries like digital media and information and communications technology
- Pharmaceutical research and manufacturing.
Ontario Liberals will keep working with the manufacturing sector to ensure it continues to thrive and prosper. We will also continue to call on the federal government to work with us to address this important issue.
Anti-plastic sentiment has reached a fever pitch recently, and one provincial leader in Manitoba has even suggested a province-wide ban on plastic bags in the province. Would you support similar anti-plastic measures in Ontario? Why or why not?
In keeping with the hallmark of our government, we have worked with industry and other partners to find a solution that I believe works for all concerned. The Ministry of the Environment has worked collaboratively with CPIA, the Retail Council, the Grocers Association and the Recycling Council of Ontario to develop an agreement to reduce plastic bag consumption by 50 per cent by the year 2012.
In the Canadian plastics industry, trade is heavily skewed toward the United States, which accounted for 91 percent of exports and 75 percent of imports in 2006. What kind of strategy would you employ help to help Canadian firms maintain, and even improve, this trade relationship?
We are working closely with the industry to create a positive business climate where the industry can continue to prosper. We have also made significant investments in border infrastructure to help ensure the optimal and timely cross-border flow of products.
Bottom line: why should members of the plastics industry consider giving you their vote?
Ontario Liberals have worked with the plastics industry to create a positive business climate for all Ontario companies. Through substantial new investments in our publicly funded education system, we are creating high-quality, well-educated workers and our strengthened public health care system represents a competitive advantage for companies that invest in Ontario. Our party is the only one that has a long-term vision for research, innovation and partnership with industry to move our province forward for future success.