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McLeod wants labor reforms shelved.

At a time when the province's economy requires co-operation between labor and management, the provincial government has managed to drive the two sides farther apart, says the new leader of the province's Liberal party.

Fort William MPP Lyn McLeod assumed the party's top spot following a five-ballot, 12-hour leadership convention in Hamilton.

During an interview from her Queen's Park office, McLeod criticized the current government for taking the province in the wrong direction, adding that it is her party's job to put it back on the right course.

"As the opposition party, we have an obligation to provide alternatives to the government's policies and initiatives," she said, admitting that there are no guarantees that the government will listen.

"But if we're out in the communities, talking and listening to people, then hopefully they will support us and pressure the government. Then we'll get real results."

McLeod accuses the NDP of eroding the public's confidence in government by introducing such initiatives as controversial amendments to the Labour Relations Act.

"This legislation was introduced at the wrong time," McLeod stated. "At a time when we need co-operation between labor and management because of the recession and the restructuring of our primary resource industries, we have a

polarization of the two groups."

The opposition leader objects to both the timing and content of the legislation, which "represents the most stringent labor relations in North America." She plans to pressure the government to either shelve the plan or opt for a longer, broader-based consultation process.

"Right now there is no sense of any real interest on the part of the government to hear the concerns of the business community," McLeod charged.

She believes the government should be concentrating more effort on keeping industries operating and people working.

McLeod's economic strategy is to examine the overall state of the economy and conduct a sector-by-sector analysis to determine which government initiatives should be enhanced and which should be scrapped. Such an all-encompassing plan is presently lacking, she said.

"We've been waiting for a year to see what (Premier) Bob Rae's economic plan for the province is," McLeod said. "The ministers have to understand how all their initiatives have a cumulative impact on business."

DEFICIT

The former cabinet minister is also critical of the Rae government's management of the province's finances.

McLeod is critical of the government's recent contract agreement with its civil servants, which granted job security in exchange for a one-per-cent increase in pay this year and two per cent next. The agreement, she explained, will make it difficult for the government to keep its deficit from ballooning.

"The agreement also concerns me because it contains a clause which would prevent contracting out to the private sector," she said. "Those kinds of commitments are hard to change."

McLeod advocates reducing government spending on bureaucracy. However, she admits that, "You can't balance a budget on cuts alone.

"Cuts alone just transfer funding responsibilities to schools, colleges, universities and municipalities," she said. "The only way is to get the economy going and people working again. This would reduce the cost of welfare and other social assistance programs and allow us to spend more money on such items as education, transportation and skills development."

However, McLeod concedes that if the Peterson Liberal government formed the government after the 1990 election, it, too, would have been hard-pressed to balance the budget.

"Had we remained in power, I can honestly say we wouldn't have been able to balance the budget either, but we would have been better prepared for this than they were," she commented.

McLeod accuses the NDP of creating a regulatory nightmare for business and of changing the rules to fit its ideology.

"There needs to be a sense of certainty about the requirements of some of the regulations. You can't suddenly change the rules," she commented.

To illustrate her point, McLeod uses the example of Environment Minister Ruth Grier's decision to prohibit Metropolitan Toronto from shipping its solid waste north to the Adams Mine in Kirkland Lake.

McLeod said the proposal should have been studied, not dismissed out of hand by Grier.

"I was impressed by the fact that they (Kirkland Lake) were not going to just take Toronto's garbage. There was going to be a recycling industry created by the project," she said. "I believe that the project should have been subjected to a rigourous assessment to determine whether it was feasible."

McLeod believes government has an obligation to complement the private sector, not compete with it.

For example, she said provincially operated norOntair had no business planning an expansion into Kenora and competing with Bearskin Airlines.

"I was concerned by the Dash-8 decision, not because Kenora doesn't deserve the best service possible, but rather that the community was already being served by the private sector," she said. "The government should have co-operated with Bearskin to improve the service."

According McLeod, norOntair and the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) should only be providing transportation services to communities not serviced by the private sector.

"The basic rule is that where the private sector can provide the service the government should stay out," she said.

If she leads the next provincial government, McLeod promised that ONTC's operations will be re-evaluated to determine if it is supporting or competing with the private sector.
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Title Annotation:Lyn McLeod
Author:Krejlgaard, Chris
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Words:884
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