A Pathway to Prosperity
In past articles we’ve identified the causes of our current economic
crisis. Now comes the hard part: providing solutions. We must now map
Ontario’s pathway to prosperity. As a fundamental truth, prosperity
cannot come from austerity. It never has and it never will.
Austerity has brought attacks by the moneyed class. They
have hit the wages, benefits, jobs and equity we have built into our
homes and communities. Now, by also attacking pensions, they are after
our life savings.
What fools they are! How will this action make our
economy grow? Ordinary people need some discretionary income for goods
and services. We need financial stability and security.
This means more than just the cash needed for food,
shelter and clothing. These basics are not privileges; they are human
Poor workers cannot fuel Ontario’s economic recovery.
Progress moves only at the speed of trust. That is why,
several months ago, I publically called for discussions by all sectors
at a common table. My call for business and government to work together
with labour and the community was ignored. Why? Businesses and many
politicians thought they would be better off trying to profit from the
financial crisis instead of meeting to solve it.
So now I am appealing directly to everyone. The “pathway
to prosperity” I am proposing is designed by the ingenuity of many;
engineered by fairness; and built through hard work. Justice is its
bedrock foundation. That means social justice, political justice and the
economic justice found through greater income equity. Through it we can
find our way to a modern industrial strategy.
The “pathway to prosperity” recognizes that Ontario must
produce quality goods and services. This strategy recognizes society is
strong when all individuals and sectors work together. That strength is
enhanced by ensuring no one is left behind.
It does call for a modest reallocation of wealth. It
will be a world where today’s rich are marginally less rich but the
middle class and poor significantly empowered.
So how do we get there?
First, affordable and available education is a good
start. Let’s be visionary. Let’s anticipate rather than react to the
challenges of economic trends. With this, skilled workers can be ready
to prosper by immediately meeting future demand. It can be the
difference between being able to build a clock rather than just telling
Next, our social safety net must be fortified. While
hard work must be rewarded, those less fortunate will also be cared for.
Let’s make this the overriding rule for our social democracy. With
rights, come responsibilities. We must commit ourselves to excellence.
Each of us is responsible for being the best at whatever becomes our
field. We will be the best technicians, nurses, researchers, caregivers,
teaching assistants, etc.
We have to dismiss the notion that a wage freeze for
regular working people somehow will provide added energy to the economy.
All it does is encourage modest and false growth based on credit, a
source that always dries up. Why is it that corporations can claim their
profits come from innovation, while wage increases – won by workers –
are labeled as greed?
Third, we have to reach out to small business. They also
deserve a part of the economic pie. Small business owners and employees
deserve decent benefits and pensions.
Small business was once called the “engine of the
economy”. They are now under siege. By working with them we create trust
and show them who has caused their pain. Today, many believe that
working people are the culprits. Wrong. Working people are the ones who
spend money in their stores.
They will learn that low wage economies favour the
WALMARTS, TARGETS and mega box stores that are putting them out of
business. If given the choice, empowered consumers will support local
business. A low wage economy takes that choice away.
Finally, we must invest in infrastructure. That means
roads, bridges, schools, public institutions, transportation and health
care. In the future, corporations will benefit from a viable and vital
society rather than one that just features low taxes. The education,
energy and skills of this future Ontario will provide business with the
innovation and intelligence they need to succeed. For those who say we
can’t afford to invest, I say, we can’t afford not to.
Through this plan we can again place Ontario ahead of
the economic prosperity curve. To get there we must work together. That
means a new partnership between business, labour, government and the
community. This “pathway to prosperity” will reaffirm our commitment for
a fair and just society where everybody plays a role.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President