Is the new Ford government sending the wrong message to business?
Toronto, ON – Much like the Harris government before them, the new Progressive Conservative government under Premier Doug Ford is doing exactly what they promised during the summer election. The election platform made it clear that governments don’t create jobs on their own but they can create conditions that make it easier to start a business or invest in the province.
However election promises often clash with reality. Decisions based on party doctrine and ideology can just as easily close businesses, kill jobs and drive away investment, both foreign and domestic.
Ford targeted Hydro One CEO Mayo Schmidt during the election as the $6 million dollar man, suggesting Schmidt’s annual salary was too high and forcing him out was the first step in cutting your hydro bills. Just prior to the Throne Speech, Ford announced he had succeeded in ousting Schmidt and he did it without paying one penny of compensation! The day of the Throne Speech the truth was revealed. Schmidt wasn’t fired, he didn’t resign, he simply retired and in so doing was entitled to stock options and benefits totaling almost as much as he would have received in severance. Not only did Schmidt retire, but the entire board of directors of Hydro One resigned en masse. This election promise has delivered no real savings for the average Ontario hydro user. It may shave a few pennies off of your hydro bill but it has created more problems than it solved.
It sent a clear message to would be replacements for Schmidt and the board of directors of Hydro One. You’ll make significantly less and you’ll have the government watching over your shoulder. It has also sent a shiver down the spines of potential investors in this province. Is this how Ontario is open for business?
This ideological platform said it would cancel energy contracts that are in the pre-construction phase and re-negotiate other energy contracts. It also has declared a moratorium on new energy contracts. True to its platform, the Ford government has introduced the Urgent Priorities Act and the key component here is the White Pines Wind Project Termination Act. The German company involved in the construction of seven wind turbines in Prince Edward County, has invested $110 million so far and has built four of the seven turbines. The legislation stops the project cold and gives the government full power to limit compensation through legislation. In short this warns that if the Ontario government doesn’t like your project, it can shut it down and you have no right to seek compensation in the courts! Remember the platform stated if elected a Ford Government would cancel contracts that are in pre-construction phase. In this case, construction is already well underway. Even the Business Council of Canada has concerns about the message this is sending to investors. Council CEO John Manley stated, “We believe this legislation, if enacted, will undermine investor confidence and set an unfortunate precedent for how the government intends to deal with the private sector.” Even Sabine Sparwasser, Germany’s Ambassador to Canada, is concerned about the threat to a project that is nearing completion. “Germany wants to do more with Canada and Ontario but this would not send a good message to investors,” she said.
Doug Ford has just been elected with a majority government so that means he has four years to enforce his platform without interruption. Ontario may be open for business but government action says otherwise!