By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Jobs and creating a livelier economic environment in the province is the top priority for the Ontario Liberals as they head into a difficult political landscape, says Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Speaking to about 500 delegates at the party’s provincial council meeting Sept. 29 at the Hamilton Convention Centre, Wynne focused on investing in people, infrastructure and jobs, as the province’s youth unemployment rate hits 17 per cent, higher than some U.S.rust belt states. Hamilton and Niagara’s overall unemployment rate is stuck at around 7.4 per cent.
“Our plan is built around the needs, the skills and the priorities of real people,” she said.
Even though she hasn’t put a price tag on the Liberal’s economic plan, nor did she say how those jobs will be created, the province will invest in infrastructure, support a “dynamic and innovative” environment, and to help “people in their everyday lives.”
Hamilton East-Stoney Creek NDP MPP Paul Miller says the Liberals have been left searching for answers after a decade in office. He said in Hamilton, the number of people living below the poverty line jumped from 20 per cent to 21 per cent.
“What did she say in her 15 minute speech? That was no platform,” he said. “They have run out of ideas.”
The premier said further details on the party’s platform will be released, but she said the Liberals have been introducing programs for the last few weeks, including the party announcing a two-year $195 million youth jobs program, full-day kindergarten, and Ford’s $700 investment in its Oakville plant. But also critical will be the decision by the Liberals next spring on how to fund the transit projects for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas, including light-rail transit. This week’s council sessions will also include discussion on how to raise the needed revenue, through higher fees, or other revenue generators to fund these massive projects.
“If we miss this opportunity, we do the people of Ontario a disservice,” she said.
But Miller says the NDP has had a platform for the last two years ready to be implemented. And this year’s budget reflected what the NDP wanted, not the Liberals, he said. The financial accountability officer, he said, which will review the province’s spending habits, was championed by the NDP.
Wynne’s focus on jobs comes after the Liberals announced the creation of a new website, commonground.ontarioliberal.ca that is soliciting ideas from people across the province.
“People have a lot to say,” Wynne told reporters in a news conference. “We underestimate the electorate all the time.”
She said ideas that don’t reflect the Liberal Party values, won’t be reviewed. Other ideas, she said, will be looked at. Wynne said the site will be moderated.