As Premier Doug Ford unveiled the first of his “open for business” border-crossing signs in Sarnia, Statistics Canada revealed Ontario unemployment continues to hover near its lowest rate in a generation.
“Doesn’t that sign look beautiful?” Ford said Friday of the “Welcome to Ontario: Open For Business” signage near the Blue Water Bridge to Michigan.
“You’ve been hearing for months that we’re going to put signs right across every single border in Ontario to tell the world, especially our great neighbours to the south, that Ontario is open for business,” said the premier, who was elected in June.
There will eventually be signs placed at all 18 of the province’s land crossings with American states, but Ford’s government is still calculating the price tag for the initiative.
NDP MPP Catherine Fife (Waterloo) said the job numbers underscore the fact that the signs are a waste of taxpayers’ money.
“We’ve seen this government stumbling along,” Fife told reporters at Queen’s Park.
Ford’s announcement came the same morning as Statistics Canada’s monthly jobs survey revealed last month’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 per cent, a decrease of 0.3 percentage points since September.
“While employment was little changed in Ontario, there were fewer people looking for work, lowering the unemployment rate … On a year-over-year basis, employment in the province rose by 83,000 due to more full-time work,” said Statistics Canada.
That’s a 1.2 per cent increase in employment since this time last year.
The premier also touted his repeal of the previous Liberal government’s labour reforms that would have increased the $14-an-hour minimum wage to $15 in January and given employees two paid sick days and other workplace protections.
“That was just hurdle after hurdle for small businesses, medium businesses, large businesses,” said Ford, a wealthy businessman who previously ran his family’s label-printing company.
“We’re getting rid of as many regulations as possible,” he said.
But Fife warned that his cuts will force workers to “make tough choices.”
“Without paid sick days, they’ll have to choose between taking their kid to the doctor when she’s sick, or keeping the day’s pay she needs to care for her family,” she said.
“Ontarians who work hard deserve more respect than that.”
Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie