By far, one of the most important leaders in Canada’s future is Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, and her latest plan is so smart and hopeful that it should be praised by Canada’s entire country.
Her focus on actionable economic policy is informed by “Activism for Action” or ANA. It describes the role of activism in creating a healthier, fairer and better Ontario, as well as the path to achieving progressive leadership in Canada.
“ANA exemplifies the role of activism in enabling action and encouraging people to seize the moment when issues and solutions are ripe for change,” said Ted Morton, Wynne’s Minister of Energy and Finance when he introduced it in 2013.
“ANA seeks to empower people in their communities to take action that can have a significant impact on a problem, a problem that has a significant long-term economic impact, and a problem that already appears to be on the road to becoming a problem,” he said.
Obviously, Wynne’s ANA has had many successes over the past six years in drawing more new people into political engagement in Canada. The small town bar in Oromocto, N.B., that looked more like a bed and breakfast when it opened up in 2011 had a registered member surge to more than 1,100 by 2013, and workplaces – in sectors as diverse as education, food service, and hospitality – now have new registrants of more than 250,000.
Throughout Ontario, particularly in some of the large urban centres, we have seen the middle-class real estate investment boom that ANA precipitated – one of the core strategies of ANA. Multiple economic indicators like wages, new jobs, and Ontario’s performance on Infrastructure New Canada’s Smart Partnership are on the rise.
Sadly, the exact opposite is the case in many other regions of Canada. Anti-Liberal and anti-Conservative supporters are on fire, but the Trudeau Liberal Party is on the wrong side of their surge and divided. This divide means the Trudeau Liberals can’t move forward on most of their most important plans and policies without Ontario’s support.
And with Canadian politics increasingly being dominated by the NDP, there’s a more disturbing comparison to examine for those living in Ottawa and Kingston. Nowhere is the Liberal party’s weakness more evident than in New Brunswick, where another ANA-inspired effort, Premier Brian Gallant’s New Academics’ Movement, is collapsing after a decade in power. I made that comparison to the Justin Trudeau-led Liberals in a blog.
Ontario is strong for many reasons and ANA is one of them. But the province needs to continue to unleash the potential in the ANA’s programs, which are most successful when focused on the province’s needs and challenges.
On education, the “E-1 initiative” and Ontario’s future training pipeline are making it easier for post-secondary schools to enter and thrive in the health care sector.
The province created a Clean Energy Strategic Entity in 2016 which aims to make Ontario the clean energy capital of Canada, driven by electricity reform and new market creation and innovation.
In my opinion, one of the most impressive examples of ANA’s success in Ontario is the country’s plan to rebuild Ontario’s roads and bridges. In 2015, Wynne led the formation of a progressive vision committee and ANA’s Action Plan Pathway™ is the vehicle to move forward on that priority.
This is a common theme – Wynne is choosing action over politics, looking to create an Ontario that works for everyone.
There is much to be done, but much also has been accomplished. If Ontario’s economic and social policy can be guided by ANA’s policies, the future of Ontario looks brighter than ever.
Jeffrey H. Howey is president of Howey Associates. He was editor-in-chief of Canada’s Newspapers and publisher of both the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun.