Stephen Harper has created the Southern Ontario Development Agency (SODA) and given it $1 billion over five years. It’s kind of funny in a way. The Conservatives are approaching the challenges in southern Ontario as if it were Atlantic Canada. They upped the CHT, tweaked Equalization, extended EI benefits and now are setting up the region’s very own culture of defeat agency for Southern Ontario.
Southern Ontario’s success in the last 20 years (and well before that) has been the enormous amount of business investment that has been dumped in the region. If you think auto, pharma, finance, life sciences, ICT – much of it greased with Industry Canada programs like the TCP. Literally billions of dollars every year creating more new private sector jobs in one year than New Brunswick would see in 50 years.
What they should have done is just beefed up the international marketing efforts of Industry Canada. The bulk of their work goes to Southern Ontario anyway. Canada sucks up $30-$40 billion a year in FDI in a good year and most of it (with the exception of oil investment) goes to Ontario. You can read about it here. Basically, outward investment from Canada is fairly proportionate. New Brunswick’s pension, RRSP and other investment monies flow out about the same as Ontario. But on the inward side it is massively tilted in favour of Ontario.
Ontario better get back to that model and quick. If that province becomes a truly have-not region, the Good Lord help us all.
PS – I can already hear my colleagues in T.O. saying that $200 million/year for SODA is still less than ACOA’s budget for a region 2-3 times larger. Ahem. SODA is on top of the entire resources of Industry Canada, Invest in Canada and the billions in funding programs channelled mostly to companies in that region (of which the TPC and the auto deal are the two most lucrative).