Ian Burns

Ontario’s opposition leader Tim Hudak is focusing his efforts on job creation, but opponents say his plan will do nothing to create jobs or help job-seeking students.

Progressive Conservative party leader Hudak is set to introduce the Million Jobs Act when the provincial legislature begins its spring sitting on Feb. 18. In a statement, Hudak said his bill will include tax cuts, increased training for skilled jobs, and increased trade.

“I am excited to bring forward an economic plan that will put people back to work, and help young people achieve their goals,” said Hudak in the announcement. “If passed, this legislation will immediately begin its task of creating jobs. This is more critical now than ever.”

Hudak’s efforts come on the heels of a Statistics Canada report, released in January, which stated that Canada lost 45,900 jobs in December, with 39,000 of those job losses coming in Ontario. Hudak pointed in the news release to the closures of manufacturing plants such as Heinz in Leamington and Kellogg’s in London as evidence that the current Liberal government has failed to create jobs.

Gabe De Roche, director of communications for the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Trade, and Employment, said that Hudak’s proposals, which include his “right-to-work” efforts which would eliminate mandatory union membership, would drive down wages.

“The Tim Hudak plan to kill jobs through billions in (tax) cuts and reduced wages,” said De Roche.

Hudak also wants to ensure that those seeking a career in the skilled trades will be better able to find jobs by changing the journeyman-to-trainee ratio to one-to-one and eliminate the Ontario College of Trades, which Hudak said in the statement kills jobs and is “nothing but a tax on workers.”

“We need to train more skilled workers to meet the demand in trades, and help young people in Ontario – including recent and future post-secondary graduates – find good jobs,” said Vic Fedeli, the opposition critic for finance.

Fedeli said Colleges Ontario estimates there are 46 per cent fewer trades people per capita in Ontario compared to the rest of Canada, and that the current government has failed in its efforts to enhance opportunities in the skilled trades.

Brad Duguid, Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, noted Hudak’s efforts will do nothing to increase access to the trades.

“The Ontario College of Trades has increased opportunities for the training of skilled tradespeople,” said Duguid. “The college has reduced the journeyman-to-trainee ratio in 16 different professions.”

Duguid said that the Liberal government’s record of success in reducing the journeyman-to-trainee ratio is in contrast to the previous PC and NDP governments. He added efforts such as the Youth Jobs Strategy have created numerous job opportunities for students.

Duguid also pointed to the fact that the Tories want to eliminate the 30 per cent tuition rebate that was instituted by the government in 2011.

“I find this repugnant,” said Duguid. “Students already have enough challenges, they don’t need this added to them.”