On October 2, 1995, Tim Hudak stood up in the Ontario Legislature to make the following announcement:
"I am delighted to relate to the assembly some very good news that has recently transpired in Stevensville, Ontario, home of the Tim Hudak Action Centre.
Ronal Canada, a local manufacturer of wheel rims, has announced a $10-million capital expansion, including 120 new jobs -- a 100% increase in employment -- at its Stevensville plant.
In concert with the expansion, a new level of cooperation between union and management has been achieved, guaranteeing labour peace through 1999. According to the plant manager, Rick Visser, Stevensville has been chosen as the expansion site because of management-union cooperation and the new political climate in the province.
This new government in Ontario has chosen to strike a bold new path, eliminating corporate welfare. Instead, we will let the marketplace reward ingenuity, innovation and skill. The result is that the Stevensville plant has been chosen over international competitors as the expansion site based on the talents of its own workforce and management, not because of government intervention.
The Ronal expansion demonstrates that management and union cooperation and the plans of this bold new government to restore a positive economic environment for business, investment and long-term job growth are already having an effect in the Niagara "
I doubt that the "new political climate" had as much to do with their decision to expand as the 30% tax cuts, but if this created jobs and a good work environment, maybe they really were on to something.
However, the "long-term growth" and "management and union cooperation" would be short lived, despite the corporate welfare in the form of those massive tax cuts.
Ronal soon stopped producing wheels in Stevensville, instead importing them from their plants in Poland and Mexico. They laid off all 120 "new" workers and then locked out the rest when they refused to accept revised contract terms, which included wage cuts of up to $7.00 per hour; the elimination of Cost of Living (COLA) wage protection; a five year contract with no wage increases; substantial cuts to overtime and other wage premiums; 30% reductions in health benefit coverage and pension plan contributions; elimination of nine paid holidays; serious erosions to workers seniority rights and the virtual elimination of health and safety contract provisions, to name a few.
Hudak's idea of a new business friendly environment meant the end of anti-scab legislation and the demolition of workers rights. And he plans the same thing today, threatening to bust the unions, which will further gut the middle class.
Hudak's old boss and current mentor, Mike Harris, created a train wreck in Ontario. Coming out of a recession, we were already in a deficit, so every penny of his tax cuts had to be borrowed. The provincial debt went from 90.7 billion to 132.6 billion by 2002. And with many good paying union jobs being replaced with minimum wage paying non-union jobs, Ontario's coffers were not being filled fast enough to cover any shortfall.
So for those out there jumping on the Hudak union busting bandwagon, remember; if you have a business and people have less money in their pockets, there will be less money to go around. Can your business survive that?
If you're a worker in the private sector and suddenly there are thousands of ex-union workers with years of experience, hitting the market; can your job survive that? Timmy was wrong then and he's wrong now.