Jobs have been in the spotlight as the provincial election campaign nears its halfway point, with the three main parties offering different approaches to job creation.
Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak has built his platform, named the Million Jobs Plan, around creating a million jobs in eight years through tax cuts, red-tape reduction, transit projects and a plan to cut 100,000 public sector jobs.
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Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals promise to create a $2.5 billion “Jobs and Prosperity Fund” to put them ahead when competing for business investment, among other measures, while Andrea Horwath and the New Democratic Party say they will give businesses a tax credit when they hire new workers while also promising to cut the small-business tax.
Dennis Dussin is the president of Alps Welding Ltd. in Woodbridge, a company that builds industrial equipment for oil refineries and factories across central and western Canada and the United States.
He said his company has doubled its workforce in the last 10 years but is still having trouble finding skilled workers to run machinery, along with fitting and welding work.
One of their key machines is a submerged arc welder, it requires an operator that's highly skilled and experienced.
Training someone to use it takes years and he said he can't afford to take workers out of production and put them in training.
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“We’re looking for somebody to do this on our night shift, we can’t find anybody,” he said.
“It's really across the board that we're finding a skills shortage that's holding us back a little bit and making it hard to continue growing.”
Infrastructure funding can have ripple effect, prof says
Dussin said he'd like to have more money for training and while he likes Hudak's proposal to cut corporate tax rates, Dussin says it doesn’t need to have such a wide scope.
“It doesn't have to be an across-the-board tax break, it should be targeted at where the money is really needed and where it'll make the most difference,” he said.
And while the PC idea of reforming the apprentice system is appealing, Dussin said it doesn't go far enough.
"What I'd like to see is a lot more industry involvement in the apprentice program in setting up how those programs work and in setting up the curriculum, " he said.
Anil Verma, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, echoed Dussin’s wish for smaller-scale measures while also mentioning how bigger investments can create ripple effects.
"It’s not a bad time to sort of invest in the infrastructure of the economy,” he said.
“Whether it's physical infrastructure, such as roads and airports, or the human capital infrastructure, which is building up the skills of the workforce by investing in post-secondary education and basic education, those factors would certainly make Ontario a more attractive place to live and that would stimulate job creation.”
Verma said he chalks up Hudak’s plan to cut 100,000 public sector workers as more of an ideological move than an economic one.
"When I see a big program of austerity, I'm kind of troubled by that because we are in a situation where our economy is sluggish and is growing slowly, so this is not a great time for more austerity,” he said.
“This is the time for government to go in and stimulate the economy by targeting certain areas for expenditure, not in a blanket sense and not in spending money across the board, but in infrastructure projects and in skills of the workforce.”