Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario, has recently travelled to over 20 communities to discuss the provincial government’s plans for jobs and growth. The plan focuses on five key areas: energy, infrastructure, tax reform, healthcare and education. Excerpts from a speech:
Shakespeare would have said that you and I are living in a scrambling and unquiet time. This has not been an easy time and it does not offer up easy answers. It takes hard work, inspiration and dedication.
That brings me to Ontario’s greatest strength – that’s our people, their talent, their drive, their determination to succeed. Our plan to strengthen the economy is all about giving Ontarians everything they need to succeed.
We want Ontario to be the place where the world’s best workers build innovative products and services that the world wants. We understand that in order for us to succeed and indeed to enhance the quality of life that we enjoy here in Ontario, we’re going to have to go where the action is.
It’s no longer enough to compete amongst ourselves, or compete amongst Canadians or compete with the Americans. The real opportunity is to be found in the global economy.
We’re improving the fundamentals: education, healthcare, infrastructure, electricity and taxes. Think of that as the foundation on which our highly-skilled and educated workforce works.
Just to give you a sense of some of the things that we are involved with when it comes to supporting the private sector, clean energy, digital media – that’s now a $15-billion Ontario industry.
Financial services – when it comes to banking, our brand, as Canadians, has just gone platinum. The world recognizes that nobody does it any better than we do here in Canada. So we’re working with the sector to leverage that advantage.
Ring of Fire – the exciting new mining find in Northern Ontario, the biggest mining find in over 100 years in Canada – they found chromite there. You can’t make stainless steel without chromite and there’s only one chromite mine in North America. We just found it. That means jobs for a lot of people. There are new clean water technology opportunities and healthy Ontario foods, as well, something that our families are looking for closer and closer to home.
The single most important thing that we can do to build a highly skilled and educated workforce is to invest in their skills and education. The single most important thing that we can do as moms and dads and grandfathers and grandmothers is ensure that our kids and grand-kids have all the opportunities they need to grow up strong and healthy and successful and achieve and become the best that they can be. All of that starts at the beginning with education.
Here’s the plan: more teachers, better teacher training, smaller classes and more learning opportunities. You know as well as I do that if a kid today drops out of high school with a grade 9, grade 10 or grade 11 education, that’s just not much on which to build, not much on which to support a family and provide for them, give them a good standard of living. So we’ve found new and exciting ways to better engage our teenagers to keep them in the classroom. Not only learning inside the classroom, but outside the classroom through some new learning opportunities.
How are we doing in terms of the rate of post-secondary education for our province? How many have actually finished high school and have gone on to an apprenticeship, college or university? Well, stats tell us that Ontario is number one among OECD countries. The global economy, it is not static, it is always moving. You can’t listen to President Obama give a speech for any length and not hear him say, ‘Those places that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow.’ He’s right. We’ve known for a long time that a good start in school makes for a strong finish. That’s why we’re doing this.
But you can’t compete solely on the basis of skills and education, you’re going to need a workforce that is productive. A strong, public healthcare system gives Ontario businesses and communities a distinct competitive advantage. Here’s our plan: more hospitals, so far 18; more nurses, over 11,000; more doctors, over 2,900; family health teams – we didn’t have family health teams before. Now we have 200, they’re looking after 2.3 million Ontarians. More nurse practitioner clinics. More MRIs and CTs...
The Ontario Medical Association tells us that 1,200,000 more Ontarians now have a family doctor. Wait times, they’re coming down. Cancer surgeries, cataracts, hips, knees, a number of other areas as well. There’s always more work to be done here. But when you measure and select a target and then make public your results, people get to assess you objectively in terms of your progress.
Moving on to strong, modern infrastructure. Here’s our plan: 18 hospitals, 400 schools, countless kilometres of roads, bridges, sewers, public transit, high-speed internet, recreation centres, and so much more. We’ve invested $60 billion in six years. It is a massive, dramatic infusion of new dollars into infrastructure projects around the province which have benefitted virtually every single community. Stimulus infrastructure investments are also helping with over 1,400 community based projects, like recreation centres, arenas, libraries, pools, parks, sports facilities.
Let’s talk a little bit about electricity. The average Ontario home today uses 70 per cent more electricity than we did in the 1960s. You might be thinking, ‘Well, how can that be? Everything that we use today is so much more energy efficient.’ That’s true. But I grew up in the 60s. We didn’t have a microwave. We didn’t have an electric coffee maker. Didn’t have a computer. Didn’t have a printer. Didn’t have an Xbox. Didn’t have an iPod. Didn’t have digital cameras that require electrical recharging. We had one TV for 12 people. I was my father’s remote. ‘Get up there and change that channel!’ When I grew up, and it was probably the same as most of you, we didn’t have air-conditioning. I grew up with three brothers, same bedroom. And on a hot, sticky, Ottawa Valley summer night, we used to say, ‘It’s not the heat. It’s the humanity.’
So we’re placing a big demand on the system. What are we doing about it? Lots. 8,000 megawatts of new generation, 5,000 kilometres of transmission. 700 wind turbines – we started with ten. Thousands of solar energy projects, including 8,000 involving Ontario farmers. We’re shutting down coal.
One big thing that we’re doing which I think is really exciting, which not many people have heard about. Underneath the City of Niagara Falls right now, we’re digging a 10.2 kilo-metre-long tunnel. The machine that is boring that tunnel is the biggest of its kind in the world. This project will supply clean electricity to Ontarians for the next 100 years. It’s over $1.5 billion.
The second benefit: We’re getting jobs, clean energy jobs; 2010, over 20,000; 2011, 45,000; 2012, 60,000.
Here’s the third result, which I think is really important when it comes to our energy plan. And I speak in my most important capacity now for a moment – just as a dad. We’re cleaning up our air. This is the 39th Ministry of the Environment report. They say that our air is getting cleaner and they tie it directly to the fact that we’re shutting down coal-fire generation in Ontario. We shut down eight plants so far, that’s like taking 2.5 million cars off the road. I think that’s important to all of us when it comes to our capacity as parents and grandparents.
We have made some pretty profound reforms to our system of taxation. Ninety-three per cent of Ontarians have received a permanent income tax cut. The average Ontario family will receive an income tax cut of $355 – this year and every year going forward. There’s a new Children’s Activity Tax Credit: $50 per child. Energy and Property Tax Credit: $900, $1000 or more if you’re a senior. And then there’s that Clean Energy Benefit; it’s ten per cent off your bill for the next five years.
We’ve reduced corporate income tax, eliminated the capital tax, we cut the small business tax rate, and we brought on line the HST that has been the subject of much conversation. 140 countries have a value-added tax just like the HST. Apart from Green-land, the US and Africa, pretty well everybody else in the world has adopted the HST, or a value-added tax. Why have they all done that? Why is it that anybody who has ever gone there has never gone back? They do it and they stuck to it because it works. It makes your economy more competitive. Economists tell us our 600,000 new jobs.
Why did it take us so long to do that here in Ontario, Canada? Because it’s hard. If it were easy, we would have done it a long time ago.
How’s the recovery doing in Ontario in comparison to the rest of the world? In the US, they’ve recovered 11.6 per cent of their jobs. In the UK, they’ve recovered 34.5 per cent of their jobs. In Ontario, 95.1 per cent of our jobs we’ve recovered. We are not entirely out of the woods. These remain very challenging times. There are still far too many people who remain out of work. So clearly, we have more work to do. But just as clearly, we’re seeing results and we’re moving in the right direction.
These are not easy times – to repeat that for the third time. It doesn’t lend itself to easy answers. And from time to time we need to look for inspiration. I have two sources of inspiration: my mom and dad. The things that they did to raise me and my nine brothers and sisters, to ensure we had all the opportunity we needed to succeed, are extraordinary. They made – and this is kind of an old-fashion word now – they made sacrifices. Now, it may be that some of you come from a long lineage of wealth, but I think most of you saw your parents and grandparents do things out of love and out of an absolute devotion to you which were extraordinary. So, when I look for inspiration, I don’t have to go any further than my mother and my father and what they did for me.
Our province is filled with people just like that, who are prepared to do whatever it takes to secure a bright future, not just for ourselves tomorrow, but for our children and grandchildren in years to come.