Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith, who took over as Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development after Jim Wilson resigned, made his first appearance in his new role at his home riding on Tuesday.
Smith travelled to a new Belleville subdivision to trumpet the government’s Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act.
Holding his media conference in a partially built home, Smith said the government will eliminate red tape for builders. “A big part of that is ending the Ontario College of Trades, which has been so restrictive.”
Smith said the move will eliminate taxes businesses have to pay to the college. “It was costing businesses to pay a fee to the Ontario College of Trades and really they were getting nothing for that.”
Another component of Bill 47 is an adjustment to the journeyman-to-apprentice ratio. When the bill passes it will be one journeyman to one apprentice. “We’ve got small businesses that want to hire an apprentice but they need three journeymen electricians,” Smith said.
Eric DenOuden, president of Hilden Homes, built the subdivision where the media conference was held.
DenOuden says the move is necessary to address the expected shortage of skilled trades workers.
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“We know that we’ve got about 85,000 tradespeople retiring in the next 10 years and they have to be replaced we also know that there’s an increased population and more houses are needed.”
Smith takes over as the portfolio after his predecessor Wilson resigned on Friday. A statement from Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s communications team indicated that Wilson resigned “to seek treatment for addiction issues.”
However, Global News has learned from multiple sources that two senior members of Ford’s inner circle, including Wilson, were forced to resign due to allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour.
“I only know what I know and that’s Jim has resigned as minister and resigned from caucus while the investigation is carried out,” Smith said when asked about the allegations against Wilson.
Watch: Jim Wilson’s resignation
Smith says he’s well-equipped to handle the quick transition.
“This is an area when I was in opposition I was the critic back in 2011 through 2013 I know this file extremely well.”
Bill 47 is expected to pass within the next two weeks.