Mr. Todd Smith: My question this morning is for the Premier. Premier, on the Friday before the Victoria Day long weekend, your government announced the cancellation of an extremely successful program that assists and creates jobs in new businesses in Ontario. The Self Employment Benefit has existed for 23 years and has outstanding results in Prince Edward and Hastings counties and across the province. Over 400 new businesses have been created in Prince Edward and Hastings counties in the last five years as a result of this program.
Premier, can you explain why your government would kill one of the only tools that it has at its disposal to create jobs in rural Ontario?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: The Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.
Hon. Reza Moridi: I want to thank the member for that question.
Ontario’s work forces are our greatest asset. As the Premier keeps saying, our people are our greatest asset. That’s why we have been investing heavily in our people in Ontario. Ontario invests $1.2 billion annually in Employment Ontario’s various programs. We serve one million Ontarians every year just to make sure they get the right training so that they can find jobs and contribute to our economy. We remain committed to investing in a range of high quality programs through Employment Ontario services to various people across our province of Ontario.
In order to deliver the best quality, the highest quality, of training programs, we wanted to streamline the Ontario Self Employment Benefit. That’s why we have been working on it to make sure that Ontarians get the best quality service from the government.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.
Mr. Todd Smith: I’m not sure I got an answer there, Mr. Speaker. I can smell a late show coming.
Premier, in the last five years, the OSEB has created 424 businesses in my riding alone, hundreds more in Northumberland county and hundreds more in Barrie—right across the province. In my area there’s a completion rate alone of 90%. This is a program that was working. Local economic development officials tell me that roughly 70% of the businesses stay in business well after completing this program.
As hydro rates and new payroll taxes place additional burdens on small businesses, you’re making it harder to even become self-employed in Ontario.
Premier, why are you killing a program that’s clearly an economic success when it’s used well, instead of reforming it so that self-employed people across Ontario can have the same success that people in my riding have had? Why are you throwing the baby out with the bathwater with this program?
Hon. Reza Moridi: I want to thank again the member for that question.
Our government is committed to ensuring that Ontario’s tax dollars are spent in a more responsible way. The reality is that the program, the Ontario Self-Employment Benefit Program, is a very costly program. Only half of the clients complete the program. That’s why we’re diverting part of the funding from that program to the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure so that they can invest more on Small Business Enterprise Centres. We have 57 small enterprise centres across the province of Ontario. Through these centres the small businesses receive the best advice in order to improve their businesses.
The winding down of this program is the right and responsible thing to do.