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On your second point -- about retraining, perhaps retraining, skilled workers -- I think there's a splendid opportunity for the province to use the workers it has to kick-start its hoped-for green economy.
I have suggested to a couple of ministers that Ontario could buy up disused plants -- particularly ones that may be abandoned by the Detroit Three auto makers -- at distress prices and use the workers there to build new things. Canada did this during the war -- auto plants started turning out airplanes and tanks -- and it could be done again. The important thing is to hold the workforce of a certain plant together rather than let it scatter into lower-paid service-industry jobs. It wouldn't necessarily mean a series of Crown corporations -- the government could turn over operations to the private sector when the economy bounces back.
Needless to say, my suggestion hasn't been met with any enthusiasm within the government.
Judy Green: During this time where there are not enough jobs in Ontario, why does Ontario have a law, which bars employers from forcing those people who are 65 years old to retire? If there is a shortage of jobs, would it not make more sense to keep the jobs that do exist for those younger than 65, rather than for those who just want to keep busy past the age of 65? A second question: Would it not make sense to change the legislation so that employers would have to pay more than the minimum two weeks of severance per year of the employee's service (which is what we have here in Ontario)? I would suggest that four to five weeks of severance would make more sense. That way, there would be less of a burden on the public EI system. Also, it would force employers to weigh more carefully whether it makes economic sense to let people go.
Murray Campbell: There's a bit of Murphy's Law in the ban on retirement, isn't there? At the time when the mandatory retirement age was lifted, few would have anticipated the current economic turmoil. I don't know how the government would put the genie back into the bottle without a massively complicated legal fight. Human rights lawyers would be delighted with that but the recession would likely be over -- and the retirement of baby boomers well under way -- by the time it was resolved.
More severance would certainly seem to be in order but, again, that would be a headache for the government. Employers looking to lay off workers are in trouble and the government would face accusations that it was compounding their difficulties by extending the severance period.
While we're at it, though, we might ask EI officials to defend the two-week minimum waiting period before benefits can be collected.
Sasha Nagy: This comment came from a reader of your Saturday essay.
Bob Dylan's Voice from Canada writes: Maybe I missed it but the whole article about Ontario having tough times and no action from the Ontario government other than the ongoing equalization complaints. I find it unacceptable that the Ontario government has been laying back for 5 years waiting for the pie to be sliced differently instead of pursuing some initiatives to help its economy. What is also disconcerting is that the citizens of this once proud province accept this. Other provinces who have experienced these situations jump to action. BC is working an economic plan as is Alberta and their situation is not nearly so dire as Ontario. Please come out of your basement Daulton. Ontario needs a plan.
Sasha Nagy: Murray: I guess the question here is, if equalization does not change, what then? Does the province have a plan?