Small Business Families Need Representation, Not Schooling

Bettys of Fort FrancesI have heard from a number of area residents about two letters submitted to the Fort Frances Times by Rudolf Zeitlhofer. The first was in response to an op-ed I submitted in August, and the second in response to an open letter I wrote to area MPs Bob Nault and Don Rusnak in September. Both of my pieces have been published on my website, where they are posted with links to various references that do not appear in the newspaper. I stand by what I wrote in them, but I will briefly comment on some of the matters raised by Mr. Zeitlhofer.

In his September 27 letter, Mr. Zeitlhofer takes issue with my concerns about the provincial Liberals’ proposal to increase the minimum wage and the federal Liberals’ tax changes for small businesses. Farms, logging and trucking companies, tourism operators, and small shops are the backbone of our region’s economy. Make no mistake: the combined effect of these policies could be disastrous for these employers and entrepreneurs. These small business families have found themselves under siege by the federal Liberals’ misguided tax changes and the provincial Liberals’ hiking of labour costs and mismanagement of hydro. We need our elected representatives to support them, to respect their contributions to our communities, and to protect their ability to grow and provide for their families. Sadly, we have yet to see a supportive response from any of these individuals.

On the minimum wage, Mr. Zeitlhofer’s letter presents an alternative theory, wherein higher wages will lead to greater spending and better living standards for employees. But it is just a theory – and not a very compelling one when faced with practical realities. He fails to acknowledge that imposing a 32% increase to labour costs in just 18 months is going to lead to job losses as businesses struggle to adapt in such a short period of time. These losses will be most keenly felt in regions like ours, where small businesses play such a large role in the economy and already face significant competitive pressures. In fact, since my open letter, TD Bank has forecast that Ontario could stand to lose 90,000 jobs as a result of this policy – a significantly higher figure than the 50,000 forecast by the government’s own fiscal watchdog. Moderately higher wages mean little for those who are no longer employed because their employer has had to make cuts or shut down. With their popularity lagging, it is little wonder why after 14 years in power, the Liberals feel a need to meddle with wage laws on the eve of an election.

In his August 30 letter, Mr. Zeitlhofer disputes the Ontario Liberals’ neglect of the Northwest and the grim economic outlook arising from their out-of-control spending. Last week’s outburst in the Legislature from Liberal MPP Lou Rinaldi who said that the north was “no man’s land” would appear to further confirm my observations. Premier Wynne has ignored calls for Mr. Rinaldi to apologize.

This letter goes on at length to engage in ad hominem and dog-whistle attacks on my character, and that of other Conservatives. This is an attempt to fear-monger instead of presenting facts – the sort of tactic we can expect more of as the Wynne Liberals and the NDP become increasingly desperate in the 8 months between now and Election Day. Premier Wynne is the least popular premier in the country. That is why Mr. Zeitlhofer resorts to claiming that our movement is homophobic, racist, and anti-Indigenous – and by inference, that I am too. These are troubling and offensive accusations, and a number of area PCs I have spoken to take them personally. I do as well, because my record on these issues speaks for itself. These are not the values of our modern, inclusive Ontario PC Party.

Mr. Zeitlhofer further opines that it is clear from my open letter that I never took his high school economics class. This is true, but fortunately, in the many years since those days, I have found time to complete an MBA in finance from one of Canada’s top business schools. More importantly though, I understand the challenges facing small businesses in our riding, because almost everyone in my family operates or is employed by one. The issues I have written about are the ones they are most concerned about, and the type I will continue to stand up for.

In the future, I suggest that Mr. Zeitlhofer do his own homework before attempting to school hard working small business families or smearing those whose politics he does not share.

Douglas W. Judson is pursuing the nomination of the Ontario PC Party in Kenora—Rainy River. Connect with him at info@douglasjudson.ca or @dwjudson.

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