Blame it on my sister. She called my attention to a newspaper story last week telling of a new agency Ontario’s NDP government intends to create. The agency has the catchy name of Ontario Training and Adjustment Board, or OTAB for short.
OTAB, explained the Toronto Globe and Mail, will help “the unemployed, the underemployed and those threatened with losing their jobs.” How will a mere board do all of that, you may ask? Well, OTAB is going to “co-ordinate the work of up to 48 training programs that now are administered under 10 different provincial ministries.”
Such an undertaking will take a bit of time, I thought to myself, and indeed Skills and Development Minister Richard Allen agreed with me. (Skills and Development Minister—what would the qualifications for that job be, one wonders?) S&D Minister Allen thinks that a committee could consider the bill to establish the agency to oversee the 10 ministries that administer the 48 programs by, say, next year. After that, the good minister isn’t promising: According to the Globe, we’ll need a “central body” to set up the “local boards,” which will “oversee” and “transfer” the responsibility for the province’s skills-training programs. Did I mention the composition of this utopia? Labor has eight representatives on the 22-member board as does business, and in the fashionable spirit of consensus, the NDP has decreed that any decision taken by the board must be approved by both sides. Then there are two representatives of educators and trainers, and one each for women, racial minorities, the disabled and francophones. Is this a script for Monty Python?
NDP policies are in the name of helping groups, but come at the cost of harming the individual. Since, ultimately, unemployment is about individuals, the policy premise is wrong. There is not much in life worse than being out of work when you want work, never mind being unemployed with a family to support. I’ve never believed the notion that a large number
The NDP should hire a dozen large tractor trailers and dump heaps of dollars at selected sites starting at Yonge and Bloor
of people go on welfare because it’s easy or fun; unemployment kills the soul, humiliates, is the social calling card that says you have no name. But I tell you this: if the Ontario government gave a fig about the unemployed, the best it could do for joblessness is to disband half its ministries and boards, go into exile and turn over the province to a motivated population that would get on with things.
I do not doubt that the proponents of democratic socialism in Bob Rae’s government believe that they are doing the best for their province—in spite of all the evidence to the contrary from Sweden to the Soviet Union. By now, in every comer of the world—except Ontario—the NDP remedies are out-of-date. Medicines, even when new, will have a beneficial effect only in the smallest, most controlled doses. In brief, the problem with democratic socialists is that even if they get hold of a good idea, from human rights to economics, they will not rest until they take the notion to an absurd extreme—and it becomes poisonous. The Ontario government’s Industrial Strategy, for one, has spent taxpayers’money like water in order to prop up and subsidize uneconomic resource-based businesses in the name of nationalism.
Ontario’s NDP has confused “competitiveness” with corporatism as the government tries to make alliances among labor, business and itself. What we get instead are more cartels. What we need are the repeal of such regulations as the minimum wage (Germany does all right without one), the closed shop, interprovincial and international trade barriers. Anyone who tries to do business now in Ontario is faced with NDP legislation from pay equity (with employment equity on the horizon), and the notorious amendments to the labor code. The cost is too high and the climate too dangerous for investment. International investors are giving Ontario the pass. Meanwhile, unemployment hardens.
So now we have the OTAB, another quasiministry. One of the major problems of contemporary society is that we have too many ministries, each one needing to create regulations and enforcement to justify budgets. But we have become so inured to the system that—if ever our government wants to reduce ministries—we would all acquiesce in the face of a government study of the Ministry to Abolish Ministries. The NDP would call it the Ontario Reduction Board. Probably, even now in Queen’s Park, someone is working on a big fat book that contains the regulations of the Ontario deregulation board.
Ontario spends about $500 million per year on job training and the federal government about $850 million for the same purpose in the province. The NDP wants OTAB to co-ordinate this spending and help Ontario compete “in the global arena.” Business has been going along with all this, but with no special enthusiasm. They, after all, are simply trying to find a modus vivendi with the rampant state. They know that with a stroke of the pen, government can wipe them out or reduce their profits to the point where it is simply not worth staying in business. Better to go along with things much as business went along with AÍ Capone.
I have a suggestion. Instead of creating the OTAB to supervise that $1.3 billion in spending, the NDP should simply hire a dozen large tractor trailers and dump heaps of dollars at selected sites starting at Yonge and Bloor streets. The economic effect on Ontario life would, I promise you, be more beneficial than the OTAB. The government should instruct citizens to spend the money and some would immediately, mainlining it into the economy. Some would save, some would invest and create jobs and so on. This is not the best way to help unemployment, but it is better than the one proposed.
Mind you, every time the NDP comes up with another wretched idea I rejoice. For years now, the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives in Ontario have been pressured by the NDP opposition and taken the blame for NDP ideas that, among other things, ruined Ontario’s health care system and led to pay and employment equity. Now, finally, the NDP can take responsibility for their own mess. Here in the Monty Python world of the OTAB let them appoint as many ministers as they want. And maybe, one day, we’ll get a Minister of Sensible Walks who will lead Ontario back into the 20th century.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.