Published in the Calgary Herald on Sunday, March 11th, 2012
As I was reading between the lines of the Drummond report, a penny dropped out from the political spin: Premier Dalton McGuinty's message is that Ontario can no longer compete with the likes of Alberta or Newfoundland because we don't have their natural resources.
And he is right in this regard; McGuinty has locked our resources away and they remain untouched.
The premier has stated that Alberta's resource wealth has been a burden on the Ontario economy. McGuinty ignores that Alberta's resource sector would be the exact same as Ontario's if they were faced with the same regulatory regime.
McGuinty has been too preoccupied crafting regulations that now exceed over a half million. Rather than accepting the word of their beloved environmental advisers, McGuinty and his Liberal government should spend more time discovering Ontario for themselves. If they did, they might actually realize Ontario's true and vast natural resource wealth.
Northern Ontario is one of the richest mineral deposits on Earth. The Ring of Fire is home to one of the most valuable chromite deposits in the world and yet it remains virtually untouched. Ontario has some of the most expansive forests and we are strategically located in the heart of North America's largest market and transportation corridor. Yet we have entombed these resources and advantages within a legislative mausoleum of red tape.
Take the Far North Act for example. McGuinty passed the act in 2010 restricting development on 50 per cent of land in Ontario, cutting off an unknown amount of potential mining and forestry operations, new investment and wealth. This act alone has cost Ontario literally thousands of jobs. Our expensive energy policies and forestry legislation have created uncertainty and have all but felled our once profitable forestry industry.
Our water resources, whether as a commodity, opportunity or use in power generation, have all been shut down through similar burdensome regulatory regimes. The Far North Act alone shut off almost 2,000 megawatts of potential hydro power. This complacency has only been bolstered with the Green Energy Act. Instead of cheap, renewable, environmentally friendly hydro electricity to help our depleted manufacturing sector, we're forced by misguided legislation to pay exorbitant rates for subsidized solar and wind energy.
Perhaps the resource that we have strangled more than all others though is our land, both private and public. In terms of public land, Ontario has more than 300 million acres of vacant Crown land. It encompasses endless kilometres of pristine waterfront shoreline with commercial and residential potential. Yet, all this land remains out of bounds and off limits. Its present dormant use is its only use. It cannot be used for tourism, residential, commercial or industrial use. This Liberal government could change some of these lands from vacant liabilities into profitable assets, but it has continually refused to do so.
Even more concerning is that the government is not only content with devaluing Crown land, but it is doing the same with our private property, which consumes only 30 million acres. If you live anywhere near the Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine or the Niagara Escarpment, an unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat has more control over your private property than you do. In Ontario, your property will likely not comply with one of more than 40 land use designations; either that or your use of it will violate one of thousands of environmental, archaeological or heritage restrictions.
Legislation such as The Places to Grow Act, the Smart Growth Act and the Municipal Planning Acts have all prevented growth in Ontario so much, that we have changed from a land of milk and honey into a land of mediocrity.
We all know that climbing a single mole hill is easy, but stack a half million regulatory mole hills atop each other, and the task becomes a mountainous obstacle.
It is not our lack of natural resources that obstructs our recovery - it is the burden of climbing over a half million laws and regulations.
Rooting out mythical bureaucratic efficiencies or accepting McGuinty's manifest destiny of an Ontario as a have-not province will not refuel or reignite our economy. Restoring economic freedoms, ending the nanny state and entrenching property rights will.