BIZ X MAGAZINE: Here’s what Ontario’s next government should focus on

For June, the Rose City Politics panel opines on the provincial election and what the next government must focus on.

The election’s over and it’s time for the government to get to solving the problems. Rose City Politics tells you what the government needs to focus on post-election.

There are numerous issues the next government should focus on, from healthcare to long-term care, education to transit, and ODSP to affordable housing, but the most important issue for the next government to focus on is combatting both societal and political extremism.

This year saw an economic blockade of the Ambassador Bridge literally and physically divide our community in two, cost the taxpayers five million dollars directly, and removed over a billion dollars worth of productivity from the automotive sector.

At the same time we were then, and are still now dealing with COVID19 and there are forces, some political and some community, seeking to eliminate all public health measures and ensure they are never reimplemented. This is dangerous.

The next government needs to get a hold of this societal and political extremism and work towards eliminating the root causes.

Two new provincial political parties are advocating against all COVID public health measures. The Ontario Party, who hired former Trump advisor and dirty-trickster Roger Stone as a strategist, and the New Blue Party.

It was opposing necessary COVID19 public health measures which led to the Ambassador Bridge Blockade.

In Windsor, a local anti-vaxxer and anti-COVID public health measures leader has announced her intentions of running for Windsor City Council in Ward 4.

While the odds of these voices winning a meaningful amount of seats at their respective tables are low, it doesn’t mean they can be disregarded. These are members of our society, and while they are seeking extreme outcomes, they should not be ignored.

Legislation alone cannot ensure there won’t be another blockade or pandemic, but working to ensure the conditions aren’t ripe to exacerbate the situation should be a top priority of the government.

An election brings with it an opportunity to start anew and address issues head on and while there are numerous issues deserving of full attention, the most important issue is combatting societal and political extremism to ensure blockades don’t become standard political activism.

Jon Liedtke is a host on AM800 CKLW, co-host and producer of Rose City Politics, a business consultant, serves on Artcite’s Executive Board, and is a band member of Windsor’s The Nefidovs.

In Windsor the obvious one is the ongoing Hospital project. Stepping outside the debate about location, this is probably one of the area’s biggest issues. Both on a healthcare front and for economic development. Windsor Essex has been left with neglected healthcare infrastructure for decades. It is actually insulting how this area has been neglected by governments of all parties. Although it appears the project is moving forward, the recent timelines for actual construction and completion leave a lot to be desired. Many people have relocated to the area and will continue to with the recent economic development announcements and an important factor for people relocating is ensuring adequate health services. I am hoping the timeline is a bit of politics that will miraculously get accelerated by the hard work of (insert politicians name) and they can take credit for it. I don’t care. I just want it built as soon as possible.

Continued focus on economic development opportunities that involve other levels of government are a nice change again after years of getting the odd scrap thrown our way. Maybe Ontario will stop ending at London and our economy can have some long term stability. 

Housing is an issue I am all too familiar with given my job as a Realtor. It is great for homeowners in this area to finally see property values increase as has been the case in most other cities in Ontario for years, but affordability for first time homebuyers has become a huge issue. Investments in affordable housing are required as the realty is the private market will not focus on that end of the market. 

The deficit and long term government debt are going to become a larger issue with rising interest rates. Any party promising to spend their way to power may sound nice, but are just going to throw flames on an already large fire. Investments AKA “increased spending” are only viable if there are available ways to fund them. Nothing is ever free.

Don Merrifield Jr. is a realtor serving Windsor Essex County for over 21 year, a co-host on Rose City Politics for over 10 years, a former professional musician, father and grandfather, and a former ward 3 city council candidate.

The single most important provincial issue for Windsor is education. The pandemic has brought health care issues front and center, and the rising cost of housing is on everyone’s mind, but Windsor’s comparatively low level of educational attainment represents a drag on our economy and the limiting factor to increased prosperity for the city and the surrounding region. Last month on our podcast, Workforce WindsorEssex CEO Justin Falconer told us “We’re dealing with a workforce that’s not as well-educated, historically, as the rest of Ontario is.” Justin went on to say that the picture is getting brighter and pointed to Canada’s G7-leading numbers in post-secondary attendance.

The most recent numbers available from Statistics Canada for the Windsor Census Metropolitan Area, which includes some county municipalities as well, do seem to show a closing gap. 32.6% of our population aged 25-34 has a high school diploma or less, compared to 30.7% across Canada. That’s an improvement over the 3.8% percent gap for the population aged 25-64. It’s important to recognize progress, but we should be aiming to exceed the national average, not fall short by a smaller amount.

Educational attainment is linked with income and Windsor has seen a decline in median household income since the 1990s, when we were above the national average on that measure. The most important thing the next provincial government can do is invest in public and post-secondary education, particularly in removing barriers to post-secondary education for people experiencing poverty. Windsor has the highest rate of child poverty in Ontario, and we will need help from the provincial government if we want our young people to fully realize their potential.

We’ve had a series of good news stories about economic development recently. If we’re going to make the most of them, we need an educated workforce. That’s the priority.

Doug Sartori is a political observer and organizer. When he’s not recording podcasts or getting people out to vote he runs Parallel 42 Systems, a technology consultancy in downtown Windsor.


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