By MPP Toby Barrett  

Many will look closely to this Spring’s Budget as our province begins its recovery from COVID-19. 

I have travelled the province for many years during pre-budget consultations in my role as a member of the Ontario Legislative Finance Committee. Consultations looked much different over the past year; however, it gave me an opportunity to engage with local business owners and community-opinion leaders who have a grasp how we move forward. I’ve also received additional feedback from many of you since last Fall’s Budget. 

Much of what people suggested was not new but serves as an important reminder of what we must continue to address to boost business and economic growth. 

During the Haldimand-Norfolk consultation, people made it clear they expect government to devise a more sustainable fiscal path after COVID, with government setting the example. Despite COVID-19 wreaking havoc on our lives, many feel opportunities have arisen.   

It’s no secret small business wants to get back to work. They want to help stimulate the economy by making money and feeding it back into our communities. As is always the suggestion, small business wants to see less red tape and bureaucracy while government to set the example for efficiency and cost-effectiveness.  

To avoid wasting time and money government should learn what employers require to succeed. Many local businesses are having difficulty finding skilled trade’s workers, as well as farm labour.  

Municipal input highlighted programs they deem useless as well as the myriad of regulation that exists. An example cited was onerous Environmental Assessments and how they slow development.   

The Ontario Government must also work closely with our counties to approve the acquisition and development of additional industrial land to attract small and large business investment. The Nanticoke Industrial Park can offer lots of up to 2,000 acres. As well, the area features the nearby 1,200-acre residential land assembly in Townsend.  

Funding opportunities should exist for not-for-profits; especially those who have proven they can deliver services with return on investment.    

Families and businesses locally have struggled with limited broadband. We must continue to help businesses develop or improve their digital footprints.  

Government must focus on priorities like building more hospitals and schools. The pandemic highlighted those countries that could put up new facilities almost overnight–Ontario must find ways of building faster.  

Accessible and affordable childcare is needed n our communities here in Haldimand-Norfolk. 

While we know regulations have long been in place for long-term care facilities, we also know the enforcement and inspection of these facilities has been weak for many years. The focus of administrators should be on providing the best care in their facility, not pushing paper. Outdated ventilation systems must be addressed, and ward rooms should become obsolete.  

Haldimand-Norfolk is no exception when it comes to the need for affordable housing, which is now moving to downtowns. Sadly, businesses have fled the cores to escape nefarious activity.  

We must all work together to protect our local economy in Haldimand-Norfolk,  including small business, seasonal and tourism-based work, livestock farming and labour-intensive fruit and vegetable agriculture. I would be remiss if I did not mention we must work harder to protect our local legal tobacco industry while continuing to challenge the illegal/contraband trade, as proposed in our 2018 Fall Economic Statement.   

 Here’s to Ontario’s upcoming March Budget! 

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk