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FORUM: What kind of Ontario do we want? (May 2018)

May 9th, 2018 · No Comments

A case for opportunity and partnership

By Gillian Smith

For the last year, I have spent almost every evening and weekend at residents’ doors across University-Rosedale, listening to your views on the future of our province. From Governor’s Bridge to Little Portugal — with the Annex tucked right in the centre — it has been a privilege to learn from you, door-by-door.

Collectively, you have expressed an overwhelming mix of frustration and anger: frustration with the struggle and expense that comes with living in the heart of Toronto, and anger over the cynicism of the current government. In particular, you have told me you resent promises of “free” care measures offered just before an election when these measures — in whole or in part — could have been implemented over the past 15 years.

Ontario, today, is the most indebted sub-national jurisdiction (province/state) in the world.

These feelings have been echoed in the hundreds of conversations — with teachers and their union leaders, healthcare professionals, arts and culture workers, business leaders and entrepreneurs, not-for-profit leaders, to name just a few groups that I’ve spoken to over the past year.

As a business person, community volunteer, and parent to two school-aged children (and another about to graduate from university), these are concerns I share.

We know our province is on the wrong path. And we understand that Ontario is at a crossroads.

Ontario, today, is the most indebted sub-national jurisdiction (province/state) in the world. This $312 billion debt burden will be carried by our children and grandchildren, potentially thwarting their ability to afford to live in the city we love.

We are all asking how it’s possible that this once prosperous province is now drowning in debt. Why hasn’t this spending resulted in better outcomes for our most vulnerable people? How is it that our infrastructure is crumbling before our eyes when we’re spending more than ever before?

The answer to these questions is as simple as it is disappointing: it’s a direct result of reckless and self-interested policy making.

Fortunately, we have the power to change this senseless fate.

This is a time for every one of us to think seriously about how we deliver care, of all kinds, in this province. It’s time to think about how we invest wisely in our shared future.

This is a moment to unleash the potential of all sectors by giving them the opportunity to build a better Ontario.

For more than 20 years, I have worked in the not-for-profit and private sector, with many roles working in direct partnership with the public sector. I have also devoted considerable time to my community through volunteering with organizations such as the Toronto Public Library Foundation, The Stop Community Food Centre, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and many more.

Through these roles, I have helped to build businesses, I have led and built not-for-profit entities, and I have supported and stewarded charities.

Through this earned experience, I’ve witnessed first-hand the strengths and challenges of all sectors.

Ontario is home to innovative businesses of all sizes, but they operate in a regulatory environment that hasn’t been reviewed in decades.

The burden of outdated rules, as well as rising costs of doing business, weighs heavily on their ability to grow and create secure jobs.

Ontario boasts tens of thousands of charities and not-for-profits.

These organizations provide vital services to Ontarians, yet they are forced to operate with a zero-sum-game mentality when competing for scarce resources. It’s time for government to recognize and value the role of civil society and develop mature, lasting partnerships so these vital organizations get the acknowledgement they deserve.

And Ontario benefits from a strong public sector, with thousands of professionals working tirelessly for the good of our province. Over time, however, relationships across this sector have been strained by overtly political decision-making. As a professional, and as the daughter of a retired federal civil servant, I know the power of relationships built on respect for expertise.

The opportunity for Ontario to thrive is enormous.

No other province has the power of our potential.

Meaningful, lasting, and positive change comes by putting the people of Ontario first, not by shaming and blaming others into action, nor by imposing self-interested policies.

It’s time to build a better Ontario by working together.

It would be my honour to serve you at Queen’s Park, and to contribute to this effort. On June 7, I hope I can count on your support.

Gillian Smith is the provincial Progressive Conservative Party candidate for University-Rosedale.

Tags: Annex · Opinion