Ontario Newsroom

Remarks By Dalton McGuinty, Premier Of Ontario To The Canadian American Business Council In Washington

Archived Bulletin

Remarks By Dalton McGuinty, Premier Of Ontario To The Canadian American Business Council In Washington

Check Against Delivery

Office of the Premier

Thank you very much for that kind introduction.

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak to the Canadian American Business Council today.

I come here today as an Ontarian and a Canadian.

But also as a North American friend and neighbour.

The ties between our two countries go back, way back, to life under the French and English, before either of us had achieved nationhood.

For almost two centuries now, Canada and the United States have shown the world how to share a continent in peace.

We've watched as several generations of family and friends put down deep roots in each other's country, and we've welcomed them as our own.

We've built the mightiest economic relationship in the world, but those Canadian nurses and firefighters who tried so desperately to get to New York in the days after 9/11 provided a large clue that our relationship is founded on something deeper than just commerce.

We're two of the world's youngest civilizations, yet two of its oldest democracies.

We share a belief in civility.

And civil rights.

We both support the rule of law.

And the right to dissent.

We celebrate the diverse cultures that enrich our national fabric.

We both believe it's not where you're from that counts, it's where you're going that's important.

9/11 was an attack on this country, but it was also an attack on our continent.

More importantly, it was a criminal and outrageous assault on the liberties, values and heritage we hold in common.

This country has been hit by al-Qaida.

And al-Qaida has made it clear Canada is on its list of targets.
Either one of us could be next.

We're joined at the hip, from the homes, farms and diners that straddle the international border to the highest echelons of our two governments.

President Reagan described Canada and the United States as having built "the most productive relationship between any two countries in the world."

And on a 1985 visit to Canada, he observed:

"We're more than friends and neighbours and allies. We're kin."

Last week, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney gave a eulogy at President Reagan's funeral.

And when Canada said farewell to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, President Carter was an honorary pallbearer.

These links cut across all generations.

My kids are Canadian -- culturally, socially and politically speaking.

In years gone by, Canadian parents might have fretted over the fact that our kids have been raised on a steady diet of Friends, Seinfeld and Survivor, to say nothing of the pervasiveness in Canada of Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's and Wendy's.

And while our kids also wear Levi's and shop at the Gap, as a Canadian parent, I don't feel threatened by this.

Not in the least.

My kids are deeply, profoundly Canadian.

At the same time, because they've grown up in the information age with access today, for example, to over four billion sites on the worldwide web, they see themselves as citizens of the world.

It's an exciting world for them.

But there are dangers.

And it's good to know we're living beside a friend.

I take comfort in the realization that we -- Canadians and Americans -- are in this together.
That we share a powerful connection.
And that no passing differences should ever be permitted to compromise the friendship, respect and support we have for each other.

Ontario is a Canadian province in a North American economy.

We play a leadership role in our own federation.

And we have matched that role on the North American stage by being a vocal force for continental cooperation and for ever-closer ties.

We're a province that believes that provincial and continental prosperity can go hand in hand, rather than being a zero-sum game.

Our past clearly demonstrates our interdependence -- that what is good for one, is good for all.

And our future depends on all of us working together to resolve the great industrial, social, energy, environmental, infrastructure and security challenges facing the continent.

Because North America's future is Ontario's future.

And so it is a pleasure for me as Premier of Ontario to come here today, update you on our economic outlook and discuss some of our shared continental challenges.

Many of you do business in Ontario or know it as a wonderful place to live, to work and to watch your kids and your businesses grow.

Ontario generates more than 42 per cent of Canada's GDP and we account for more than 53 per cent of all Canadian manufacturing.

And we are working with economic forecasts that show economic growth of 2.3 per cent this year, rising to an average of 3.3 per cent between 2005 and 2007.

This growth will foster job creation and rising incomes for our people.

Our goal is to make Ontario the North American leader in economic growth and innovation.

We're going to do that in several ways.

By keeping business taxes stable.

We already have a lower combined overall corporate tax rate than all our bordering U.S. states.

By managing government finances prudently and efficiently.

Our recent budget includes a four-year plan to pay off the deficit we inherited and balance Ontario's finances.

And by revitalizing our infrastructure, rebuilding our electricity sector and maintaining a high standard of public services.

A recent survey of Canadian business leaders found inadequate infrastructure, not taxes, to be their chief concern.

They pointed to cities choked by gridlock, aging highways and jammed border crossings as disincentives to new investment.

This year, we're going to spend more than $3.3 billion on infrastructure improvements.

And just last Friday, my transport minister announced a $1 billion, multi-year investment to fix our highways and bridges, create jobs and keep our economy moving.

To meet the power needs of our growing economy, we are going to rebuild Ontario's electricity sector.

If anybody doubted the interdependence of our two economies, last summer's blackout was a reminder of just how closely we are linked.

We're going to create a conservation culture in Ontario to temper demand, call for new investment in renewable energy production and replace our coal-fired generators with clean energy alternatives.

Our continent's energy and environmental issues are closely linked.

And we need to work together in the next few years to make sure we get these linkages right.

Families in Ontario, and much of the Midwest and Northeast U.S., share the same air shed and breathe the same air.

And we're all going to be downwind from 54 of 96 new coal plants under development in the United States.

In Ontario, one in five school children suffers from asthma.

Smog also costs Ontario more than $1 billion every year in preventable health care expenditures and lost economic activity.

A recent study by the public education group Clear the Air concluded that power plant pollution shortens nearly 24,000 lives here, including 2,800 from lung cancer, and causes 38,200 heart attacks each year.

In Ontario, we're moving to replace our coal-fired generation.

Washington, however, is going in the other direction.

It is proposing regulations that will make it easier for hundreds of old coal plants to be retrofitted without meeting updated emission standards.

In other words, these plants will have 21st century production levels -- but they'll only have to meet emission standards from the 1970s or earlier.

So let's take a deep breath, while we can, and let's get this right for families on both sides of the border.

Prime Minister Martin has raised this issue with President Bush.

And I pressed our case on this issue last month in a meeting with the governors.

To be clear, I'm not asking that U.S. coal plants be shut down.

I'm just asking that if a plant is going to be modernized, it be required to meet the current EPA standards.

And I can report that we have a lot of support down here.

People on both sides of the border know that smog is harmful.

And what they want us to do is work together on energy and environmental solutions that promote their health -- not endanger it.

The final element of our plan for economic prosperity is our multi-billion dollar transformation of Ontario's public health care and education systems.

Those two programs are the twin jewels of Ontario's social fabric.

Nothing is more important than our health.

And education is the ladder of opportunity.

But health and education are also important economic drivers.

Our universal health care system gives Ontario employers both tremendous savings and predictability on costs.
That's a made-in-Ontario advantage we are keen to maintain.

Our biggest advantage in Ontario, however, is our people.

We have one of the most highly skilled and educated workforces in the G-8.

Most of our people got their start in Ontario's historically excellent public education system.

But that system has been sliding for a few years now.

Sixty per cent of new jobs need some form of post-secondary education, but Ontario's dropout rate and test scores have been going in the other direction.

So we connected the dots.

We said, if we get public education right, we get the best citizens, the best jobs and the best employers.

That's why we've embarked on a dramatic four-year program to raise student achievement and keep young people learning.

An important marker of student success in Ontario will be the ability of our 12-year olds to read, write and do math to a high level of comprehension.

We know that success in literacy and numeracy is the basis for success in high school and beyond.

In an economy based on higher skills, changing technology and relentless innovation, those students will be called on to do more and more -- in just a few short years.

If they cannot master the material in school, they will not go on to join the ranks of tomorrow's skilled workers.

I was in Detroit last month and heard a story.

General Motors was thinking of locating a new plant in Lansing.

But they had a rather unusual concern.

They worried that Grade 3 students would graduate into Grade 4 without having mastered the Grade 3 curriculum.

GM believed that low student achievement in the Lansing school system would leave it short of the skilled workers it would need over the lifetime of the plant.

Lansing got the plant.

And those kids got the extra support they needed to succeed.

Nobody knows exactly what the future holds for our kids.

But it looks to me like their prosperity will depend on our generation's ability to do three things:

Develop our children's skills

Develop an innovation-based economy where we are constantly creating new knowledge and developing commercial applications for that knowledge

Move beyond the protectionist policies of the past.

Trade is central to a bright future for all of us.

When each country, stripped of the veil of protectionism, is free to diversify and do what it does best, we all benefit.

Free and secure trade with the United States is absolutely critical to Ontario.

Our trading relationship with the United States is truly one of the wonders of the industrialized world.

Ontario is the United States' third largest trading partner after Canada and Mexico.

You take 91 per cent of our exports. And you send us nearly three-quarters of our imports.

Two-way trade between Ontario and the United States amounts to almost 900 million Canadian dollars per day.

Think of the schools that trade has built, the families it has fed, sheltered and clothed, the quality of life it has created and the opportunity it has meant for generations on both sides of the border.

At times we're competitors, each looking for elbow room in an increasingly crowded global economy.

But more and more we're collaborators, sharing a symbiotic relationship of jobs, investment and wealth that enriches all of us.

This is particularly true in the auto industry, where Detroit's Big Three have come north, and Ontario's parts industry, Magna, Woodbridge and others have come south, spreading prosperity on both sides of the border.

Forty years of trade under both the Auto Pact and NAFTA succeeded in reducing the border to little more than a line on the map.

Now, in the post-9/11 era, the border is much more than a line on the map, it is an important line of defence in the war against terrorism.

On the border, my government is well aware that security not only trumps trade, it trumps everything.

And that's exactly as it should be.

And why it is so important that we work together to form a security partnership, so that our borders can be both secure -- and open.

I want you to know that I am committed to the security of our border.

Homeland security is not a foreign concept to my family.

One of my brothers, his wife and their two young children live in New York City.

And I have a sister who lives in Florida and raised her family not far from where the al-Qaida pilots received some of their flight training.

I give you my word that Ontario will be a worthy ally in the war on terrorism.

We will not allow ourselves to be used as a base for future terrorism operations against the United States.

We will not be exploited.

We will be vigilant.

I am committed to working cooperatively with both our federal governments and the Great Lakes states on border security, anti-terrorism and intelligence-gathering issues.

As I said, security trumps everything.

Yet, I think we're all mindful of what's at stake economically as well.

Trade equals jobs -- on both sides of the border.

Ontario's export industry supports one out of every six jobs in the province.
And it's been estimated that nearly two million jobs down here are supported by exports to Canada.

That adds up to several million Ontarians and Americans whose daily bread is tied directly to a smoothly functioning border.

The good news is that ties between our two countries are deepening.

Since the advent of free trade in 1989, total trade between Canada and the United States has grown by 152 per cent.

Commercial traffic has grown by 122 per cent.

The bad news is that our border simply hasn't kept pace with this growth.

Nor is it prepared to handle the further 180 per cent growth in trade forecast over the next 11 years.

Last week, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce issued a comprehensive report showing that delays at the border cost both countries more than $13 billion Canadian annually.

The study also showed that Ontario bears almost 40 per cent of these delays -- at an annual cost of more than five-and-a-quarter billion Canadian dollars.

That's more than $1,100 annually for every Ontario taxpayer.

Border delays are making Ontario industry increasingly uncompetitive, threatening our vital auto connection with Michigan and cutting sharply into tourism.

Ironically, in this age of free trade, border delays now function as a quasi tariff on Ontario goods and services heading south.

As Premier, I'm making it my responsibility to raise the profile of this issue, not just on behalf of the business community, but on behalf of all Ontarians.

Entire businesses are at stake, and so are jobs, government revenues and the important public services and programs they support.

That's a sobering scenario.

And it demands we be creative in our efforts to keeping our borders both secure -- and open.

I have an idea that I'd like to put forward, an idea that is both pro-trade and anti-terrorism.

Some have suggested establishing pre-clearance stations on Canadian soil to speed up workings at the border.

I know there is some sensitivity on the part of some Canadians to U.S. personnel carrying weapons on our soil.

Perhaps one way to reach a win-win here is to declare a bi-national zone for pre-clearance at the border -- in essence, shared common ground -- where Canadians can be Canadians, Americans can be Americans, and we can all get where we're going quickly, safely and securely.

We're going to bring this forward for further discussion.

In the meantime, let's make sure the joint programs we've got to accelerate clearance are being fully utilized, such as NEXUS and FAST.

The Free and Secure Trade Program, or FAST as it's known, is a harmonized pre-clearance program for low-risk trucking.

It was developed in the months following 9/11.

Two-and-a-half years later, only 4.4 per cent of goods traded across the border are using FAST.

That's disappointing, given that businesses that have signed on are big supporters of the program.

We need to boost this figure, quickly.

We're going to work with the federal government to better publicize the program in the export community.

FAST and NEXUS continued to operate even during last December's Orange Alert in the United States.

All indications are that FAST-approved goods will enjoy a clear advantage in getting through in the event of another border tightening -- and let's all pray it doesn't come to that.

In partnership with our federal government, we're also proceeding with a $625 million, multi-year infrastructure package to improve road safety, speed up the flow of cross-border traffic, protect and strengthen local jobs and growth, and beautify transportation corridors at three of our busiest crossings, including the all-important Windsor-Detroit Gateway project.

We're going to publish a timetable on that project soon.
I stress the importance of deadlines here.

Work without a deadline is like a race without a finish.

Why would anyone rush?

And we are working with the Canadian, United States and Michigan governments to develop a single, integrated planning and environmental process to add future new capacity.

When it comes to economic cooperation, safe and secure borders and all the other issues that come with sharing a continent, we have so very much in common, it just makes sense to work on common solutions.

I started out by quoting one of your late great presidents and I will finish by quoting another.

I believe JFK captured the Canadian-American relationship perfectly when he said:

"Geography has made us neighbours.

History has made us friends.

Economics has made us partners.

And necessity has made us allies."

Ontario and the United States are neighbours.

We are tremendous friends.

We have become productive partners.

Now, let's strive to be even closer allies, so we can overcome the challenges we face together

So we can deliver what our people both want: a prosperous economy, a safe and secure society and a quality of life that is second to none.

This future -- something we can see in our mind's eye, something we long for on behalf of our children on both sides of the border -- my friends, this vision is ours to deliver.

Additional Resources

Share