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Remarks By Dalton McGuinty, Premier Of Ontario At The Ottawa Chamber Of Commerce

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Remarks By Dalton McGuinty, Premier Of Ontario At The Ottawa Chamber Of Commerce

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Office of the Premier

It's great to be here in Ottawa to visit with one of the nation's leading chambers of commerce.

Thank you for your invitation.

More importantly, I want to thank you for the work you do, the jobs you provide, the risks you take, the families you support, the causes you get involved in -- for the contribution you make to our economy, our community, our province, every day.

This Chamber has been the voice of the private sector in Ottawa since 1857, the same year Queen Victoria made Ottawa the capital of the new Province of Canada.

And thanks to your efforts, people around the world now know that Ottawa sports a robust and diversified economy with particular strengths in computer technology, telecommunications, bio and medical research, health care and higher education.

Anyone who thinks this is some sort of one-horse town ought to saddle up and take a ride around this city.

I want to talk to you about the challenges we face, together, and how we can overcome them, together.

You will know our government inherited a $5.6 billion deficit.

Well, there's another $2.2 billion that's not technically on our books -- yet -- but for which our government now has responsibility.

It includes money for things like deficits at hospitals and children's aid societies.

So, all in all, we face a large fiscal deficit.

But it's only one of the deficits we face.

We also face a services deficit.

Ontarians want better results in return for the hard-earned tax dollars they give government.

They want higher student achievement for their kids, reduced waiting times for important health services, a prosperous economy in which to work, and stronger communities in which to live.

They want government to work with them and for them, instead of around them.

They want democracy to matter again.

You see, they know that we have a services deficit -- as well as a fiscal deficit.

I call these our twin deficits.

And I want you to know: we are tackling both of them.

This is what we meant when we asked Ontarians to choose real, positive change -- a change to responsible management of our finances, and a new emphasis on better results for the people who depend on the services we provide.

I don't see it as a choice between the two.

Not at all.

You see, these twins may not be identical, but they are joined at the hip.

The business climate in which you work depends on the proper management of the Province's finances and the efficient delivery of the public services you need.

Today's business climate requires more than just a competitive tax structure.

It includes the schools that educate your workforce, the health care that keeps your employees healthy, the transportation corridors you use to get products to market, the quality of life you can offer the skilled workers you need to recruit and retain -- and all of these depend on the fiscal health of the governments you depend upon.

You need your government to tackle both the fiscal deficit and the services deficit.

And your government needs you -- to create the jobs, to attract the investment, to generate the revenue that makes everything else possible.

We're in this together.

And we need to work together -- especially at a time when our competition is fierce, when it comes not just from across the border, but from around the world.

I want to focus on two specific things we are doing to tackle these twin deficits.

The first is something we call the Transformation Agenda.

That's a grandiose name, I know.

What it means is we are transforming government so that improved customer service is at the heart of everything we do.

There's an irony in this, one that you will understand as business people, and it's this: improved customer service doesn't have to come at a cost.

In fact, it often results in greater efficiency -- and less cost.

Upon being sworn in as Premier, I ordered a review of everything government does, to make sure we're focused on our customers, and their priorities.

I'm pleased to announce tonight some of the results of that review.

Cabinet has just approved an initiative that will -- pending a review by the privacy commissioner -- allow emergency rooms to access the prescription drug history for over 2 million patients.

This will mean better care for patients -- they will be diagnosed faster and given the proper prescription drugs.

It will also save the health care system money, by averting many of the more than 40,000 additional trips to hospitals that are triggered by adverse drug reactions.

Queen's Park had become fixated on the practice of hiring high-priced consultants.

It was a political trick, to trumpet that you were reducing the size of the public service, while quietly paying consultants more money to do the same job.

Well, so far, we are creating more than 100 full-time positions for work previously performed by information technology consultants.

This will make it easier to recruit and retain top-quality IT staff -- and it will save taxpayers $5 million a year.

The Ministry of Consumer and Business Services is launching a one-stop website for businesses -- rather than search 23 separate websites, you'll be able to get the information you need with the click of a mouse.

That will save you time and all of us money.

As we prepare our first budget, we're looking at the results Ontarians expect for the money they invest, instead of simply looking at the amounts we spend.

The second thing we are doing to tackle our twin deficits -- the second set of specific actions I want to emphasize tonight -- is the new relationship we are building with municipalities.

Our business climate is only as strong as the communities in which we do business.

If roads are gridlocked, if neighbourhoods aren't safe, if the streets aren't clean, if the garbage isn't picked up, you can't attract the capital, workers and customers you need.

Just as we are transforming government from the inside out, we are transforming the relationship Queen's Park has with municipalities.

We believe Ontario is only as strong as its communities.
So, after eight years of Queen's Park fighting with our communities, we are working with them, for a change.

We have engaged our municipal partners for their best ideas on how we can work together -- the Province, the federal government and municipalities -- to improve the quality of life for people in our communities.

Our biggest priority for cities is better public transit.

For the first time in Ontario history, we have been able to pull the federal government and municipalities together to improve public transit.

That effort paid its first dividends earlier this week with announcements to support the public transit system in Toronto.

And here in Ottawa, Bob Chiarelli has been working with me and my caucus colleagues -- Jim Watson, Phil McNeely, Madeleine Meilleur and Richard Patten -- for major improvements to Ottawa's transportation system, including light rail.

We believe these efforts will bear fruit very shortly.

In fact, Mayor Chiarelli is one of the best and brightest visionaries when it comes to how we can work better together.

He has been a major influence as we put forward proposals for this new relationship between the Province and municipalities to strengthen our communities.

But our commitment to Ottawa goes beyond transit -- it starts with health.

There has been a sea-change in style and substance.

It means a new public hospital for Ottawa -- the Royal Ottawa Hospital.

And it means a cardiac children's unit at CHEO.

We have restored local democracy to the public school board, and provided $6.5 million to Ottawa schools for improved literacy, numeracy and English-as-a- second language programs.

We rescued the Childrens' Aid society from a deficit and set it in the right direction.

We need to continue to work together -- the federal government, Province and the city ... the public sector and the private sector ...

We need to continue to ask ourselves, each of us, 'how we can help?' instead of 'who can we blame?' ...

We need to work and build and dream together ... here in Ottawa and right across Ontario.

If we do that ...

If we realize we truly are in this together ...

We can have strong, prosperous communities ...

In a strong and prosperous province ...

An Ontario that's competitive and compassionate ...

An Ontario that values your hard-earned tax dollars and delivers value in return for
them ...

An Ontario with the most highly skilled work force, the healthiest population, the best business climate ...

An Ontario that's the envy of the world ... with a quality of life that's second to none.

My friends, that Ontario ... the one we all see in our minds' eye, the one we long to leave to our children and grandchildren ... that Ontario, is ours to deliver.

Thank you.