By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak is looking to put 1 million people back to work.
But union organizers are hoping to make sure the opposition leader doesn’t have a job after the next election.
As Hudak hosted his New Year’s levee at Memorial Hall in Binbrook Jan. 12, about 20 members of various unions, including the United Steelworkers, protested outside chanting and holding signs as people entered the building.
Rolf Gerstenberger, president of United Steelworkers Local 1005, said the way Hudak wants to create jobs is to quash unions, depress wages, and cut corporate taxes.
“The way to prosperity inOntariois to take a 50 per cent pay cut. We think that would make it pretty hard for people to make a living.”
Hudak said his party has a plan to create 1 million jobs over eight years, including cutting hydro prices, reduce debt and taxes, cut red tape, encourage more targeted immigration, and direct people towards skilled trades.
Absent from his five-point plan, which he will be introducing as a private member’s bill, is any reference to eliminating theRandformula, or establishing so-called right-to-work legislation. The Tories want to make union membership and dues voluntary with right-to-work legislation.
Gerstenberger said ideas such as right-to-work areas as some United States have become, only slash wages, furthering the gap between rich and poor, and quashing unions’ power.
“People making $15 per hour are not in prosperity,” said Gerstenberger. “They are looking for another job so they can work two jobs. Heaven help the province.”
“I know there are those that will protest and resist that everything is going ok right now,” said Hudak. “I just find Ontarians are just looking out for change. So our plan involves modernizing our labour laws, lowering taxes, government spends within its means and get hydro rates under control.”
Hudak has repeatedly stated since 2008 the manufacturing sector, especially in the Niagara and Hamiltonareas, has shed 300,000 good-paying jobs.
The Liberals insist manufacturing is making a come back with more than 700,000 people working, and the province recovering 164 per cent of the jobs lost during the recession.
The proposed bill comes on the heels of Ontario’s employment falling by 39,000 jobs in December, boosting the unemployment rate up to 7.9 per cent, compared to 6.5 per cent in September. In December 588,500 people in the province were out of work.
Ontario’s unemployment rate is the highest in the country.
The veteran leader dismissed the protest outside, saying they were respectful and didn’t bother people.
“After 18 years (in politics) when you find you attract protests, it tells you you are on the right path,” said Hudak. “There will be those who will fight tooth and nail for the runaway spending in the province.”
Hudak said during the hour and a half event, the top priority for people who attended was the economy and jobs. He deflected questions about de-amalgamation, legalizing marijuana, and even the Tories’ support for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, turning back to jobs as his party’s number one, two and three priorities.
“My instincts are the people want to focus on getting our economy moving again and that means more jobs for the almost 1 million who don’t work in our province,” he said. “Better jobs and take home pay so you can climb the ladder. I hear very clearly here in Binbrook (jobs is the priority) not these other sideshow (issues).”
Hudak said he doesn’t want to get involved in municipal issues, since he has enough responsibilities at the provincial level.
The Tories are concentrating on the economy as the possibility of at least one by-election inNiagara, and possibility another one in Thornhill is called. Premier Kathleen Wynne has to call a by-election by the end of March.
“The issues in these two ridings are the top issue in Binbrook and that’s jobs,” he said.
Hudak also indicated his party won’t be supporting the Liberal budget when it’s introduced this spring, possibility triggering an election. The last two years the Tories have not voted for the budget, which has prompted the NDP to support the Liberals, keeping them in power.
It’s a scenario Hudak is concerned the NDP will do again.
“(Leader Andrea Horwath and NDP) continue to criticize the government in the morning, and then prop them up in the afternoon,” he said.
Hudak was accompanied at his levee with is six-year-old daughter Miller, and his wife Deb Hutton, who is pregnant and is due in April.