Remarks By Dalton McGuinty, Premier Of Ontario To The Etobicoke, North York And Scarborough Chambers Of Commerce
Check Against Delivery
It's a real pleasure to be here today.
I want to start by thanking each and every one of you for the great work that you do.
People often say that the GTA is the economic engine of Ontario. And it is.
But it's your hard work -- the businesses you run, the risks you take and the jobs you create -- that spark that engine.
So before I do anything else today, I want to applaud your efforts ... encourage you to continue building successful businesses ... and promise you that our government will work with you in any way we can.
Achieving a great future is going to take hard work. We're going to have to face some challenges, together.
But I am confident that we can overcome them, together.
You no doubt know that 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.
As a government, we're tackling this fiscal deficit in two ways.
First, we're making responsible choices.
We've already taken important steps to be fiscally responsible, including the cancellation of irresponsible tax cuts, which would have cost billions in future years.
We face some difficult decisions on what to do differently and what to stop doing altogether -- so that we can focus on the priorities that we campaigned on and that people voted for.
Those are: greater success for students in school, a healthier population, a prosperous economy and stronger communities.
As we prepare our first budget, we're looking to improve the results Ontarians see in improved services, in return for their hard-earned tax dollars.
The second way we're dealing with the fiscal deficit is by changing government itself.
We're putting improved customer service at the heart of everything we do.
For example, we've approved an initiative that will -- pending a review by the privacy commissioner -- allow emergency rooms to access the prescription drug history for over two million patients on the province's drug benefits plan.
This will mean better care for patients -- they'll be diagnosed faster and given the proper prescription drugs.
It will also save the health care system money, by avoiding many of the more than 40,000 additional trips per year to hospitals that are triggered by adverse drug reactions.
We're also getting rid of some high-priced Queen's Park consultants.
The previous government claimed it was reducing the size of the public service, while quietly paying consultants more money to do the same job.
So far we've created more than 100 full-time positions for work previously performed by information technology consultants -- a savings of $5 million a year.
And 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.
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.
By tackling the fiscal deficit, head-on, we're helping to strengthen Ontario's economy and put ourselves on a stronger footing for tomorrow.
But the fiscal deficit is 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.
And I want you to know: we are tackling both of them.
Pouring money into social programs without addressing the fiscal deficit would be irresponsible.
Balancing the budget without fixing our hospitals or schools would be heartless.
It would also be mindless.
Today's business climate requires more than just a competitive tax structure.
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.
The new paradox of global economic competition is that local conditions matter more than ever before.
In other words, our business climate is only as strong as the communities in which we do business.
That's why we've engaged our municipal partners on 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.
We're in this together.
As businesses, you need your government to tackle both the fiscal deficit and the services deficit.
As a government, we will make responsible decisions so that we're more able to focus on our priorities, build a stronger province and provide the services that will help you succeed.
One of our goals is to build strong, livable communities and, especially, a stronger Toronto.
We're doing our part to ensure that Toronto, Ontario's economic engine, continues to run smoothly and powerfully.
We're doing that by forging a new relationship with the City.
It's the same kind of relationship we're forming with municipal governments across the province -- and it represents a real departure from the way things were done in the past.
Gone are the days when one level of government would try to micromanage the affairs of another.
Gone are the days of finger pointing and blame games.
Now, all three levels of government are working more closely than ever before. Trusting each other to do the right thing.
And making real progress on the priorities that matter to Ontarians.
Here in Toronto, that means our government has already been able to make a significant down payment on our services deficit and a commitment to a stronger, more livable city.
We invested $89 million for Toronto general hospitals, and $4.8 million for specialty psychiatric hospitals in the city.
We contributed more than $60 million for Toronto schools as part of our initiative to improve literacy, numeracy and ESL programs for struggling students.
And we invested $24 million to build 900 units of new affordable housing in the city.
Recently, together with the federal government and the City of Toronto, we invested a historic $1 billion in the Toronto Transit Commission and then we topped that up with an additional $90 million to strengthen the TTC.
That's on top of a commitment of more than $126 million for subway safety and capital improvements we made last fall.
These transit investments will help people get around the city faster, which means higher productivity for business.
It means people will have more time to spend with family and friends, and more time to take part in the community.
And I believe community involvement is crucial to keeping Toronto strong.
And we've had to summon a little more of this strength lately.
In light of the recent rash of hate crimes, many people may have felt unwelcome, misunderstood or afraid.
Let me assure you, racism will not be tolerated in this province.
In Ontario, we celebrate our differences. And in Ontario, we thrive on our diversity.
We must not let hatred grow.
And violence -- of any kind -- has no place in this city.
I'm concerned about the rise in gun violence in this city over the last two years.
We're not going to tolerate it.
We're going to tackle it.
Right now, we're developing a comprehensive, multi-faceted plan to combat guns together with police and the City of Toronto.
But solving this problem doesn't rest simply with the police or one group or one level of government.
It's up to all of us ... government ... police ... businesses ... community groups and individual citizens to rid our streets of gang and gun violence and hate crimes, once and for all.
Because, as I have long said, none of us is as strong as all of us.
We need to work and build and dream together ... here in the GTA and right across Ontario.
We need to build a stronger economy so that we have the money necessary to invest in our priorities.
And we need to concentrate on our priorities so that we can deliver the services the people and businesses depend upon.
We need to continue to work together -- the federal government, Province and the city ... the public sector and the private sector ...
To build communities that are the pride of Canada ...
To build an economy that is the envy of the world ...
And to build an Ontario that is a worthy home for our dreams ... for our hopes ... and for our children and grandchildren.
My friends, that Ontario, is ours to deliver.