I must admit to being confused. I was under the impression Joe Swan was running for mayor of London, a city of close to 400,000 people with a multi-billion-dollar economy.
After seeing Swan’s seven-point economic development plan announced yesterday, I’m thinking he must be running for reeve of a small hamlet somewhere else in Southwestern Ontario.
The plan – as reported by various media but remarkably, not posted on his campaign website the day he announced it – calls for $10-million in spending to stimulate the city’s economy and create jobs.
If that $10-million figure sounds familiar, you might be thinking of the $10-million Swan loudly opposed giving Fanshawe College to help it renovate the former Kingsmill’s department store. That project will attract 1,600 additional Fanshawe students downtown and generate $150,000 in tax revenue annually for the city.
It passed last week, over Swan’s politically expedient objections, to the relief of left-wing, tax-and-spend organizations like the Downtown Business Association and the London Economic Development Corp. Not to mention the city’s treasurer and chief planner.
Licking his wounds from that loss and a London Free Press poll that showed him running fourth in what had been considered a three-man race, Swan summoned local media Friday and unveiled his grand economic development plan, a plan he promised would, “turn economic development on its head.”
Bring it on Joe, hit us with both barrels. Whatcha got to create jobs in the city and fuel your run to victory on Oct. 27?
What he’s got is a weak-kneed, milquetoast plan to inject $10-million into the city’s economy. He’s going to turn economic development on its head by spending 1.3 per cent of city hall’s 2014 budget of $776-million. It’s like tipping your waitress $2 after a great dinner with your sweetheart. Or tipping the pizza delivery guy a handful of nickels.
That ain’t gonna get it done Joe.
Not only is the $10-million figure so small as to have virtually no effect, he has spread it out over a seven-point plan full of trivial, gee-wouldn’t-it-be-great-if proposals.
A Shop Local London website? Really? That’s going to turn economic development on its head? Have you ever used Google Joe? It kind of takes care of the shop local angle for those looking to do so. If a micro-enterprise can’t figure out how to create a website for $200/year and open a Twitter account, it’s not going to be around long enough to create any jobs.
Glomming on to the Ivey Business School, Swan allocates another micropayment of $250,000 to create some kind of international think tank in association with the school. “Cultural leaders” will cross-promote business and culture. Huh?
The big ticket item is $5-million – or 0.65 per cent of the city budget – in start-up capital for businesses ready to grow – shovel-ready, to use a phrase that expired two years ago. The money must be matched by investors and will be managed by the LEDC. That could create some jobs. Ten maybe. Twenty perhaps. Great news in that hamlet where Swan’s apparently running for office. In the London economy, it’s not even enough to cause a ripple in the Thames.
There’s $1.5-million for “21st Century industries.” Swan cited some examples: fashion design, online writing and app creation. Let’s be generous and assume his examples are the weak part of the proposal and he’s also talking about game developers and web-based design businesses. The thing holding those businesses back is not the lack of a few shekels from the city. The struggle is finding people with the necessary skills to do the work.
Stand by, Swan has a plan for that problem too. He’s offering $5 per hour for every post-secondary student hired locally. That, he claims arbitrarily, could create 75 jobs. Yes, 75 whole jobs in a city of nearly 400,000. And that presumes employers are going to be swayed by $5/hour/new employee. If they are, it’s not going to be in the 21st Century industries, that’s for sure.
There’s more to the plan, and if it’s ever posted on Swan’s campaign website there might be more details. But the basics will remain. The candidate who plans to turn economic development on its head has pledged 1.3 per cent of the city hall budget to build websites and set up think tanks.
Good news Orchestra London. You’ll be getting your executive director back in about six weeks.