Killing com­pet­i­tive­ness

National Post (National Edition) - - ISSUES & IDEAS - Jo­ce­lyn Bam­ford

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.

JEAN LEVAC / POST­MEDIA NEWS FILES

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.

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