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 rights.
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 the time.
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