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Murray, one of seven candidates vying to succeed Dalton McGuinty as Liberal leader and premier, told the Star’s editorial board that the next premier will face two key challenges: getting the ballooning debt under control; and managing the shift from a manufacturing-based economy to an innovation-based one.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
We’ve had nine years of Liberal government. Presumably the challenge for the candidates is to determine which one of you can change the channel sufficiently. What’s the biggest mistake that this government has made since the last election and how would you fix it?
It’s not so much a mistake. The big difference is that governments that are doing well in the world today – and they are few and far between – are ones that understand the relationship between the private sector economy and the public sector. It’s the governments that are provoking higher levels of investment, higher levels of risk capital, higher levels of job-creation, ones that are building their tax bases, introducing technology on a significant scale and increasing productivity that are actually getting out of deficit. Those that are taking the more right-wing, cost-management approach – you can’t cut your way out of this.
On the Drummond Report:
There are a few good ideas in it. But I’m suggesting an economic paradigm shift – from cost-side management to a return-on-investment paradigm, which goes beyond both what we have now and what Don Drummond suggested. He was given very specific parameters. So I think if you asked him about productivity and innovation specifically, he would have gone a lot further.
There are Ontarians who are not getting enough food to eat, who cannot get or keep a roof over their heads, people with mental disabilities who are working in chronic poverty. Where do they fit into your strategy?
One of the most immediate things is housing. And one of things I have a great deal of history in is affordable housing. In my last political career, the projects we ran in Winnipeg built more affordable housing units than in any other time or place in this country. It amazes me that I’ve got 47 condo towers going up in my constituency right now. Anywhere else in North America – through market mechanisms and partnerships and community land banks – you could probably generate 20,000 affordable housing units easily with that. We haven’t generated one. We would have a very aggressive policy to correct that.
I’ve also co-written a social innovation strategy that involved 8,000 Ontarians and almost all of the not-for-profit and anti-poverty community. There’s a dynamic report there that talks about social enterprise and a whole way of restoring independence, about lifting people out of poverty and allowing people to transition with benefits into employment. And I would move to aggressively implement that strategy.
I think we’ll get greater clarity on Monday. There have been two strategies here: there are people who have been going for massive numbers of delegates, while others have been figuring out where their members are and have been pretty surgically precise about that. Most of us want to be over 200 delegates to be seriously in the race and most of us are positioning our strategies to come out at that point. We’re all having friendly discussions about where things might go, but I don’t think anyone’s going to be jumping off the bus anytime soon.
What report-card grade would you give the Dalton McGuinty government?
On the possibility of a new casino in Toronto:
Casinos are over-extended. Everyone’s building them. It’s a shrinking pie and everyone’s getting thinner slices of it.
I don’t agree with OLG. I think it’s completely going in the wrong direction. They build cheap, big-box casinos – and they’re ridiculous.
On his proposal to create a regional government for Northern Ontario:
In an economy that’s driven by mining and forestry, the infrastructure requirements are so unique that if you actually allow for revenue sharing and you actually separate and devolve powers and try it for 10 years, I think what you’ll see is much more rapid investments, much less bureaucracy, much more efficient use of tax dollars, and a sense of faster wealth-generation coming out of the north. I’m a great believer in decentralization and I think uniquely the north needs that.
Such a thing doesn’t exist anywhere else in the country, right?
No. I actually like to try to do things for the first time.