By John Swartz
Ontario premier Doug Ford, along with Monte McNaughton (minister of labour, training and skills development), Peter Bethlenfalvy (minister of finance), attorney general Doug Downey and Simcoe North MPP and Jill Dunlop (minister of colleges and universities) were at Orillia Auto and Truck Recyclers Monday morning for a 10 a.m. announcement about expanding the Second Career Program.
Ford also announced a proposal to extend the $2,000 jobs training tax credit to 2022.
“This is all part of our plan. Our plan to stand behind our workers and ensure that nobody is left behind as we move forward and build Ontario into the greatest place in the entire world to live and work,” Ford said.
The Second Career program dates back to 2008 and is intended to give people financial assistance of up to $28,000 to cover tuition, books, transportation and a basic living allowance of $500 weekly. Some can qualify for additional funding to cover child care and disability related expenses. It has under gone a number of revisions since 2008, with a program redesign in December 2020, a second phase redesign in July this year and Monday’s announcement is a phase 3 redesign.
“What this program provides is real help for those who need it,” said Ford. “Today’s announcement is yet another step in how we are giving workers a hand up in building back a better and stronger Ontario.”
Ford announced the original $82.4 million budget is being increased by $5 million and eligibility expanded to include, “more people on social assistance, those who are self-employed, gig workers, youth, newcomers, and others who need a hand up.”
Bethlenfalvy said there is a skill gap between workers and available jobs.
‘Our province has the lowest share of workers with an apprenticeship or trades credential at 4.5%, below the Canadian average of 10.5%. This presents a real risk to our economic recovery and to our prosperity,” he said.
When media had an opportunity to ask questions, one was posed about the labour shortage in the hospitality industry, specifically restaurants and the effect raising the minimum wage will have on owners.
“I talked to numerous restaurant owners and I asked them would you be willing to pay someone $15. The majority of them are. They said, “Fifteen dollars, I’ll pay them whatever it takes to get in here because I have my restaurant closed half the amount of time it was before and we need people.” I think that was a no brainer, from $14.35 to $15, that’s basic, that’s a beginning wage, it’s tough for anyone to survive on $15. This is an employee’s market and I encourage to go out there, increase their skills, find better jobs that pay more money because there’s never been a market like this in many years,” said Ford. He then carried on to talk about Ontario’s record on job creation.
“Every day I get an update from our minister of economic development and it’s staggering the amount of companies that are expanding here and coming in from all over the world because we created the environment for companies to come here. It’s a world economy, we’re competing against everyone in the world and we have to create conditions that are more competitive than other regions around the world.”
SUNonline/Orillia asked about another area of concern affecting most people without work or in low income jobs, which is the cost of housing.
“It’s fine and dandy to help people retrain, and of course the increasing minimum wage, but there’s another factor involved here to help people in the province and that’s the cost of housing. Rents are escalating, housing prices are escalating, is there anything the province is planning to do to help working people out in the province with regard to corporate ownership of rental housing units who are taking advantage of existing law to boot residents to get new ones in at a higher rent than they would otherwise be able to do, and to control ownership?” SUNonline/Orillia asked.
“I don’t like landlords kicking people out of their homes, that’s the first thing. But, it all comes down to supply and demand. We can talk about everything but supply and demand and right now we are working with the minister of municipal housing and we are going to sit down with all the municipalities and ask them, “What can the province do to speed up permits?” We’re going to start scoring the local cities and towns to see how quickly it takes to permit,” said Ford.
“Believe it or not, sometimes when they apply for a permit it can take 4 to 6 years. Where in North America does it take 4 to 6 years? Not all jurisdictions, but the vast majority; it’s just like going on a carousel; they loop you around, loop you around, and guess who is paying? The people are paying, the developer is not paying. We need to sit down, work with the municipalities; they’re the ones issuing the permits. That goes back to MZOs too – municipal zoning orders. In my opinion, that’s one of the best tools if someone wants to build a company, expand a company and they want to put an addition on, where are you going to invest? Are you going to invest in a place that takes 6 years to get a permit to put an addition on your facility, or are you going to invest in a place that takes 6 months. We all have a responsibility, the province and the municipalities, but man we’ve got to start cutting the permit times down big time and start getting houses built as quickly as possible.”
Another question posed was about a recent story of a Barrie developer cancelling condo sales contracts unless buyers bay another $100,000.
“That’s ridiculous. Nothing burns me up more than that. Some developer just trying to make extra money off the backs of hard working people, unacceptable,” said Ford. “If they have a contract and they’ve signed a contract and it’s no fault of their own, but the prices have gone up in lumber, that’s a cost of doing business for the developer. Believe me, I’m not shedding tears for the developers, they’re doing pretty good right now.”
Ford then issued a warning to developers.
“Developers stop playing your games, you signed a contract, you better build that damned house at that price because we are not going to let you off, simple as that.”
But when challenged developers can do this under current law and regulation , Ford doubled down.
“We’re going to address this because it’s simply unfair,” he said. “You can’t play these games with people’s lives.”
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) main: MPPs Doug Downey, Monte McNaughton, JIll Dunlop, Peter Bethlenfalvy and premier Doug Ford at Orillia Auto and Truck Recyclers.