Remarks By Dalton McGuinty, Premier Of Ontario On Results From Canadian Policy Research Networks Report Statement to the Legislative Assembly
Check Against Delivery
Mr. Speaker, our government believes in Ontarians.
We believe that none of us is as strong as all of us, working together.
That none of us is as smart as all of us, planning together.
And that no idea is as powerful as all of our ideas, put together.
This is why -- after we had the privilege of being sworn in as their new government -- we embarked on an unprecedented consultation with the people of Ontario.
They had clearly chosen new and different priorities on October 2nd.
The new and unexpected context in which we would address those priorities became much clearer once we assumed office.
An independent review by former provincial auditor Erik Peters revealed a $5.6 billion deficit.
In the fall economic statement, we also reported on an additional $2.2 billion in risks, including deficits in our hospitals and children's aid societies, and the financial woes of Ontario Power Generation.
The previous government, Mr. Speaker, had told Ontarians that there was no deficit.
We also learned, upon taking office, of the true depth of the services deficit facing the province.
Ontarians hadn't been told, either, of the real state of our energy sector, our classrooms, or our hospitals, of the failure to plan for the future.
We wanted to give Ontarians the straight goods, and consult them on the right direction, in this new context.
We wanted to know which deficit -- the fiscal deficit or the services deficit -- concerns them most urgently.
We wanted their best advice on how to tackle these deficits -- and how quickly they should be tackled.
We consulted our own public service, asking for its ideas.
We consulted experts, stakeholders and community groups.
Our main focus, though, was on the public at large, the people who sent us here, the people we all work for.
In person and on-line, in town halls and citizens' dialogues, through a toll-free number and a new website, we consulted Ontarians.
We did something that has never been done by a government in Canada before.
We gave citizens an open-ended opportunity to discuss budget strategy, to face the same decisions we face, with the same information, and in the same context, so they could give us their best advice.
Today, the results of an important part of this process have been released in a report from the Canadian Policy Research Networks, an independent, not-for-profit organization.
CPRN conducted wholly independent research with groups in six communities -- day-long dialogues involving more than 300 Ontarians, selected at random, from all walks of life.
I want to thank CPRN for their work.
Most importantly, I want to thank the Ontarians who braved cold winter mornings to help us face some challenging decisions.
They have confirmed our belief that Ontarians will always respond with candour, commitment, caring -- and intelligence.
All you have to do is ask.
We asked, Mr. Speaker, and this is what we heard:
Participants told us they want government to be accountable, ethical and transparent.
They want government to manage public funds efficiently and wisely.
They are willing to do and pay their share -- as long as they know government is using public funds wisely.
They want fairness: they're willing to accept changes, but they want the most vulnerable people in our society protected.
They believe in conservation: they're willing to pay the full cost of services to promote conservation of natural resources.
And they want a balanced approach -- a long-term, holistic approach to budgets.
They told us they want the budget balanced, over the course of time.
The report says that in exchange for not cutting the core programs and services they most value -- particularly health care and education -- Ontarians would be prepared to pay more in interest on the debt, for the short term.
Ontarians are telling us their most immediate priority is improvement in public services.
They're telling us to improve their health care and education -- while operating efficiently and wisely.
They're telling us to take a balanced approach, to improve public services while we tackle the deficit.
They're telling us that they're willing to accept difficult choices, if those choices are made for the right reasons: to improve the services they care about the most, while protecting those who need help the most.
These views have been echoed in our other consultations, including our town halls.
Mr. Speaker, leadership means listening.
But it also means deciding.
We have listened.
And we will decide.
Ontarians' advice will help us make the right decisions.
They won't always be easy decisions, and they will seldom be simple ones.
But they will be the right decisions, made for the right reasons.
These decisions will take the form of a new Budget we will present to this Legislature on May 18.
Make no mistake about it, Mr. Speaker, the magnitude of the fiscal deficit, unexpected though it may have been to Ontarians, is a real challenge, and we have to deal with it.
Obviously, this will have some impact on our plans.
To pretend otherwise would be less than honest with ourselves and with Ontarians.
But as we have made clear in recent days, and as our Budget will demonstrate, our commitment to health care and education is unwavering.
These remain our top priorities because they are Ontarians' top priorities.
Speaker, we look forward to tackling the challenges before us.
In doing so, we will call upon the best that Ontarians have to offer.
In return, we will offer our very best to the people of Ontario -- our best judgment, our best work, our best leadership.