(**Note: Stéphane Dion did not tell Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to sit on it. But that was the gist of his opening remarks at an announcement at Guelph Tool today. There was more as you'll see.)
"It's rather prophetic that we've come into one of Guelph's leading manufacturing plants and find it empty today," said Frank Valeriote ominously. "It's a sad reflection of what's going on in our economy."
This gathering at the Guelph Tool, Inc. plant on Lewis Road was part of Liberal leader Stéphane Dion's swing through Cambridge and Guelph to see first hand the impact of the economic slowdown in the region. Bob Ireland of Guelph Tool says his business, auto parts, has been hit hard by the bad times in the US, forcing him to cut the Friday shift and close one of the company's factory floors here in town.
Valeriote took the opportunity during his remarks to mention once again Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's words earlier this year about Ontario being the last place anyone would want to invest in. The Liberal candidate added that Flaherty's promise of tax breaks, in terms of impact on businesses like Guelph Tool, is like not throwing a drowning man a life preserver but promising to buy him a meal when he reached shore on his own.
"We need to have a good strategy for working families, now," said Dion," And right now there is no strategy under the leadership of Stephen Harper."
Dion accused Flaherty of not knowing where the economy's going, citing the Minister's revision of the estimate of economic growth four times since last year's "rosy budget." The Liberal leader then continued on to say that Flaherty should have been fired by Harper over the "last place to invest" statement, and that unlike Jack Layton, he's not just [in Parliament] to oppose, but he's there to replace. "To replace we have to convince Canadians that we have a much better strategy," he said.
First, said Dion, we need to set out to recognize the importance of manufacturing jobs and protect them. He pointed out that while we're loosing the well paying manufacturing jobs, the new jobs being created are ones where workers are not making as much money, and as a result, cannot strengthen the rest of the economy. Dion said that he's been told on trips abroad to hold on to the manufacturing sector and not lose it. "We have an understanding of what the manufacturing sector means to the economy," he added.
Secondly, Dion continued, the Federal government with him as prime minister will work to build partnerships with all levels of government and business to attract more investment. We all need to work together, he said, to seriously tackle the problem and look for ways to reverse it, which led to step three of his strategy...
"Make sure that you are building the products of tomorrow," Dion said, "Make Green, clean products a part of the economy, make sure you're creating the products of our time."
Naturally this includes the Green Shift plan, which Dion says will see the cost of pollution through the carbon tax be turned around and spent on creating a Green economy and investing in Green solutions. It will also breed research and development, he added, saying, "If you don't innovate, you're not competitive and your competitors will be better than you and offer better jobs."
For the workers Dion said that the income tax cuts on the Green Shift will mean for a family with two kids making $30,000 per year a savings of $2,000 by the fourth year. "These tax cuts will be especially attractive for middle and low income workers," said Dion, who believes that this saving could turn around and be invested in education or stimulating the economy.
Finally, Dion said a government led by him will return to the "great traditions" of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin in terms of fiscal responsibility and stewardship.
Following the event at Guelph Tool, Dion retired to the Valeriote campaign office for media interviews and later go canvassing with volunteers.
"Media interviews," did I say? Yes, actually, look for my interview with Dion in this space in the next couple of days.