Despite the wrong path Ontario is headed down, our best days are ahead. Hamilton and Niagara have incredible potential to create new and lasting opportunities for local residents. We need to take urgent action to turn our economy around, balance the budget and create jobs here at home.
So I’ve laid out a positive, pro-growth plan to achieve these goals by getting our fiscal house in order and our economic fundamentals right. This includes stopping the overspending for balanced budgets, affordable energy, lower taxes, fewer regulations and a bold revision of Ontario’s 1940s era labour laws that hamper our ability to compete and innovate.
We’re raising the level of debate with my party’s Paths to Prosperity: Flexible Labour Markets discussion paper, which proposes increased competition for building and maintaining provincial and municipal infrastructure – like our schools and energy system. This proposal would abolish “closed tendering” – the practice of allowing only contractors with collective agreements with particular unions, to bid on construction and maintenance projects.
As a basic principle, all companies should be allowed to bid on government contracts. But restrictive clauses in union agreements have created monopolistic bidding conditions that increase costs and smother job creation. More expensive infrastructure means less of it gets built. That’s fewer schools, hospitals and, ultimately, fewer jobs created. It also means higher electricity bills, since both Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One use closed tendering as well.
The world has changed, and our economy has changed, but the attitudes of public sector union bosses – who are are sheltered from competition and business risk – have not. Take, for example, the City of Hamilton. Hamilton estimates restrictive clauses within its collective agreement with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC) inflate the prices of its construction projects by up to 40 per cent. Infrastructure Ontario revealed that the $155 million Pan Am Games project at Ivor Wynne Stadium would be subject to the same tendering restrictions. The price could be dramatically inflated.
Closed tendering also prevents union contractors from bidding on some contracts too. Hamilton provides another example: Of the roughly 260 contractors registered with the city at the time, only 13 of the 260 contractors had unionized workforces with the UBC. Consequently, 95 per cent of the avaliable workforce is suffocated by the Carpenters Union monopoly in Hamilton.
A further example is the exclusive contract that the Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council has with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). This lack of competition has led to wasteful spending and questionable practices, such as the TDSB getting a bill for $143 for screwing in a pencil sharpener.
Ontario has unrivalled competitive advantages like an educated workforce and easy proximity to international markets – right on our doorstep – but our failure to adapt to the realities of a 21st century economy is holding us back. With the right climate for private sector job creation, Ontario will reassert itself as the economic engine of Confederation – and communities across Hamilton and Niagara will benefit.