Iread, with growing anger, Andrew Coyne’s recent column on competitiveness. He accuses companies of “self-interested corporate whining.” Really? I am not sure who Coyne hangs out with, but it isn’t the members of our Coalition of Concerned Manufacturers and Businesses of Ontario. If he did, he would realize that they, like an awful lot of Ontario companies, are worrying, not whining.
Coyne does not seem to understand what many politicians and many in the general public also don’t seem to understand: the majority of businesses in this country, a full 93 per cent, are not large corporations with record profits but companies with less than 100 employees. These companies are the economic engine of our economy and they are being severely damaged by poor government policies, policies whose primary purpose is getting politicians elected.
These business owners are worrying because their taxes continue to rise, their energy costs continue to rise, and their labour costs continue to rise — not because of market pressures, but because of interventionist policies that are seemingly determined to build a province of state enterprise, not free enterprise. Ontario has had a government so committed to the cult of climate change that it devises scheme after scheme to tax the use of hydrocarbons — the affordable fuels Canada has in abundance and manages more sustainably than just about anybody in the world.
We are watching businesses that are shrinking (as they can’t stay competitive in the face of these costs), or not growing (because investment dollars are not being spent here), or moving (to more business friendly jurisdictions), or just shutting down all together.
I have also seen the development of a troubling trend amongst politicians and the press to paint business owners and operators as the bad guys. They talk about record profits, unscrupulous owners and employees that need to be protected from dangerous situations as if these are the rule and not the exception. A large part of the incumbent Liberals’ election strategy seems to be painting businesses as an evil force that only a re-elected Kathleen Wynne can defeat.
This is, of course, nonsense. I have spoken with many business owners that have kept employees with cancer on the payroll rather than have them have them go on long-term disability at a reduced rate of take-home pay. I have heard from business owners that have donated to hospitals, built schools in other countries and contribute large sums of money and many hours of their time to charities. These stories never see the light of day. It is easier for politicians and the press to paint business owners as cruel bourgeoisie sweatshop owners than face the fact that Ontario is spending its way into fiscal crisis.
Canada’s politicians and average citizens truly seem to believe there is no danger in reckless spending and constant borrowing. When you ask many citizens who pays for social programs, school and hospitals, they answer “the government.” They do not realize, or have forgotten, that it is private businesses that give people jobs so that they can pay taxes so that we can have these things. Citizens need to realize that when you have high debt these taxes go to paying interest on debt and not to doctors and nurses. The only way out of the mess that Ontario is now in is to grow the private sector so that they can hire more people who will pay more taxes. That is the way to prosperity.
We are not whining, we are warning. We are warning that if the politicians of this country continue to add unimaginable costs to the majority of small- and mediumsized businesses, all to fund their reckless and unsustainable agenda, we simply won’t survive. We understand competitiveness: our customers demand it of us. Ontario is killing competitiveness. Its people deserve better.
And you should know better, Mr. Coyne. Jocelyn Bamford is the founder of the Coalition of Concerned Manufacturers and Businesses of Ontario.
Nick Thompson in the kitchen at the Black Tomato restaurant in Ottawa wearing a “wake up Ontario” slogan. Owner Peter Besserer closed the restaurant citing higher minimum wage, which he says would have cost him $80,000 a year.