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Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek's Remarks at the Ontario Road Builders Association (ORBA) 92nd Annual Convention - Transportation Infrastructure Day

Speech

Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek's Remarks at the Ontario Road Builders Association (ORBA) 92nd Annual Convention - Transportation Infrastructure Day

Ministry of Transportation

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Thank you Terry Willms for that great introduction.

Good morning everyone.

Let me start by saying, what an honour it is to be here with you.

I'd like to start by recognizing the accomplishments of your outgoing President, Marlene Yakabuski.

She defines leadership as she is patient and so knowledgeable in her field. Marlene has also made history at the ORBA as she is the organization's first female president.

Thank you for your service Marlene.

I'd also like to extend my congratulations to ORBA's new President Steve Smith, and new Chief Operating Officer Bryan Hocking. 

Marlene - and so many others in this room - have worked hard to build a strong relationship with MTO.

I look forward to continuing to strengthen that relationship with the help of Steve and Bryan.

And I look forward to working with you both to help realize the potential of your member companies and ORBA as a whole.

There are so many accomplished and hard working individuals in this room - road building contractors and suppliers as well as planners, engineers and managers from across our great province.

Today, we celebrate achievements and prepare for the future. 

Before the election, I took a great interest in the local transportation issues and opportunities in my home riding of Elgin-Middlesex-London and across Ontario.

I truly believe Ontario's transportation system is the backbone of our province.

Highways join cities.

Roads bring families to friends.

Bridges connect communities.

Each road or highway kilometre in this province serves the people of Ontario.

Through the first few months as Minister, I have gotten a front seat view of how each transportation project comes together.

I so appreciate the many people who are involved and responsible for building our roads.

From the assessment and planning stages, to designs and bidding, to contract awards and work, to certification and maintenance.

Every step of the road building process involves Ontarians who are experts in their field.

Many of these experts are here in this room today.

So before I go on, let me say: "Thank you, and congratulations."

Thank you, for dedicating yourselves to building our transportation network - for joining cities, bringing families to friends, and connecting our communities.

Ontario's roads and highways really are the envy of North America. 

When I've travelled outside our borders and compared the excellent condition of our roads and bridges with those elsewhere - I feel very proud.

In addition to having quality roads, Ontario consistently ranks among the top jurisdictions in all of North America when it comes to road safety.

Safety for construction and maintenance workers — and safety for the travelling public too, 365 days a year.

For example, we have some of the highest winter maintenance standards on the continent.

So far this winter, there have been very few formal complaints around snow removal on highways.

Things have improved as contractors have added more equipment to their fleet.  There are now over 1,100 pieces of winter equipment ready to fight the harshest winter weather on highways, roads and bridges across the province.

We will continue to work closely with our contractors to get snowy and icy conditions back to bare pavement as quickly as possible.

Clear roads are important for keeping people and products moving - and safe.

Many people in this room are not just road builders. You're business owners.

And another way to keep business moving - is to cut red tape.

Our government is lifting regulatory burdens off the shoulders of businesses like yours, helping Ontario's job creators grow and thrive.

Cutting red tape is a big job. Because, as we all know, there is so much of it.

Our red tape reduction bill - which was introduced in December - will help us cut regulations by 25 per cent over two years. 

We also passed the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, which makes it easier for employers to hire workers. It will ensure that workers have easier access to jobs and career growth.

Our government is seizing opportunities and harnessing new technologies to make government and business more efficient.

Recently, I was in London to announce new technology that will help commercial trucks to make their deliveries faster.  Pre-clearance and pre-screening technologies will allow approved carriers to bypass highway inspection stations and keep moving.

This is one of many things we are doing to show that Ontario is open for business.

Highway construction is an important part of that plan.

We believe the work of road building and maintenance encourages job creation, investment and trade.

And we are going to keep on building and repairing highways in very challenging times.

I'm not going to sugar-coat the fiscal situation Ontario is in.

Under the Liberals, Ontario's deficit was allowed to grow, and grow, and grow, up to $15 billion dollars a year. 

As business people, you understand that if the deficit were to keep growing, it would put many things at risk, like hospitals, schools, and even our transportation network.

Now, at long last, Ontario has a government that will get its finances in order.

We all know there are some difficult decisions ahead.

And yes, we are currently reviewing all proposed projects and actions taken place to date, to determine necessary steps, to make sure we are best positioned to provide quality and efficient transportation options to all Ontarians.

The good news is that, in a few short months, since the election, we have already started making progress to restore fiscal discipline to Ontario.

We are respecting the taxpayer and making government more effective for you.

In fact, we are finding efficiencies and streamlining services, to make sure that government programs and spending make the most sense, for the most people.

These are necessary steps to help achieve fiscal balance and restore public confidence in Ontario's finances.

In 2018, the government saved $3.2 billion dollars by finding efficiencies without compromising front-line services.

Through reduced spending, the deficit has already been reduced by half a billion dollars.

Of course, one reason why we are working so hard to find efficiencies, in every ministry, across the entire government, is so that we can fund the projects that matter most.  And that certainly includes our transportation priorities.

Our government stands by its campaign commitments.

Work continues on the potential six-laning of the 401, to highway 416 on the road to Ottawa.

And, speaking of the 401, I hope to have an announcement soon about our plans to increase safety on the highway.

We will re-start the Environmental Assessment for the GTA West Corridor. The EA will identify and address transportation needs in the corridor through York, Peel and Halton Regions.

We're moving forward towards four lanes on Highway 17, west of Arnprior and Highway 3, between Leamington and Windsor.

We are delivering on what we promised.

And that's not all.

MTO is moving forward on major projects like the 400 expansion.

The 427 expansion.

The twinning of highway 69 between Sudbury and Parry Sound.

And the twinning of Highway 17, between Kenora and the Manitoba border.

We will strengthen and expand our highway network and we will do it together.

And our government will continue working to expand transit, as part of an integrated transportation system.

Looking ahead, the legislature will soon be back in session.

Our government will present its first budget.

This budget will be faithful to the principles that have guided us as a government: restoring trust and accountability in Ontario's finances, making Ontario open for business, and respecting consumers and families by making life more affordable.

The Minister of Finance is still consulting on the budget.

But I can assure you that he, as a former Mayor, knows what roads and highways mean to communities.

So, our government will make smart investments in public transportation, in highways, roads and bridges with an eye to improving Ontario's road network and keeping it in great condition.

As I said at the beginning, MTO and ORBA have enjoyed a long-standing relationship. 

Our investments, and your excellent work, will keep that relationship strong and productive well into the future.

I look forward to having more good news for you in the coming weeks.

It's an exciting time in Ontario, and I'm looking forward to achieving great things together.

Thank you.

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