New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath was on the stump in Health Minister Deb Matthews’ Thursday (May 8), the reek of another 280 jobs leaving Ontario fresh in the air.
After a tour of The Inner Geek and a handshaking session at a downtown bookshop, Horwath set up at Covent Garden Market mid-afternoon and pounced on the news Unilever plans to close its soup-making plant in Bramalea in 2016.
She said the government has done “nothing in terms of job creation,” and neither the Liberals nor the Tories have a workable plan.
“It can’t be a blank cheque” to companies that shutter plants and send jobs elsewhere.
She touted her plan to give companies up to $5,000 to create jobs with a 10 percent tax credit toward the employee’s salary.
“Giveaways that are not attached to jobs is not the right thing to do,” she said. "What would make sense is to actually reward the companies that are creating so we’re getting something for the taxes we’re handing back.”
The NDP leader reiterated she didn’t support the budget because she didn’t believe the Liberals could deliver on 70 “new promises,” arguing the Grits have ragged the puck on home care, auto insurance and the promised Financial Accountability Office that remains empty.
“If the Liberals cannot make good on three promises from the last time around, why would anybody believe they can make good on 70 new promises?”
After shaking a few hands at the market entrance and watching the Horwath scrum, Matthews, who is contested in London North Centre by half of the “killer bees” of city hall in New Democrat Judy Bryant and Tory Nancy Branscombe, said Horwath’s plan has already been tried and cancelled by U.S. President Barack Obama.
“I think it’s a pretty unrealistic approach,” she said. “We’re really investing in jobs here” pointing to a recent meet with London participants in the province’s youth job creation strategy.
“Eighty-four percent of them are getting permanent jobs after the initial placement,” she said. “Those are real jobs.”
On Unilever, she said Ontario’s economic base is shifting to smarter, “knowledge economy” jobs.
“We need to be on the forefront of investing in the next generation of jobs,” she said, pointing to $2.5 billion set aside for jobs, including $400 million for agri-food, in the budget the NDP “shockingly” didn’t support.
“That would really benefit London and southwestern Ontario” as would the promised high-speed rail line to Toronto, she said.
“I’m calling it the second Industrial Revolution,” she said. “The manufacturing jobs of the past aren’t going to be there.”
Matthews said she was waiting for Horwath to utter the NDP plan for the Unilever factory and was disappointed.
“No politician is going to be able to snap their fingers and fix the problem, but we’re working really hard,” she said. “Our unemployment rate is coming down here in London and we are seeing steady improvement but now is not the time to take what is a slow recovery and smash it to smithereens the way (Progressive Conservative leader) Tim Hudak wants to do it.”
She said the impact of the $1 billion promised for the Ring of Fire chromite mining development in Northern Ontario would be felt as far as the Forest City.
“We’re calling on the federal government to join us to develop Ring of Fire,” she said. “ It’s a huge opportunity ... There are companies in London that supply the mining industry.”