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Remarks By Dalton McGuinty, Premier Of Ontario To The Toronto Board Of Trade

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Remarks By Dalton McGuinty, Premier Of Ontario To The Toronto Board Of Trade

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Office of the Premier

Thank you.

It's great to be with you -- bright and early this morning.

It's wonderful to see so many leaders from the business community and all walks of life.

I really enjoy coming here.

Let me start by thanking each and every one of you -- and your members throughout this great city -- for the work you do every day, for the jobs you create, for the contribution you make to this community and this province.

Ontario is only as strong as its economy -- and our economy is only as strong as its engine, the city of Toronto.

And you do so much to keep our engine -- and our economy -- running.

As Premier, I especially appreciate that.

I've been Premier for a year now.

People ask me how the job has changed.

I feel the same way today as I did on the day I was sworn-in.

It's an enormous privilege.

I'm enormously grateful for the opportunity to lead a province as great as this one.

It's an honour to serve people as hard-working and as high-minded as the people of Ontario.

Yes, I have a deeper understanding of the challenges facing our province.

But I'm more optimistic than ever.

And I'll tell you why.

I can't remember a time, perhaps since the Second World War, when there has been such a consensus about what needs to be done.

Seldom has there been so much common ground shared by business and government and, I might add, labour.

Think back just a few years to when conflict, not consensus, was the norm.

We were all pulling in different directions.

Now, occasional conflict is healthy, it's part of life.

But constant conflict is deadly -- it hampers our ability to make progress.

I said during the campaign that I believe we in Ontario can do anything when we work and build and dream together.

Well, I believe, we are working, building and dreaming together -- better than we have in years, perhaps decades.

And that's because there is a real consensus on what we need to do.

Not universal agreement on every detail.

But a real consensus on our priorities.

You know, for years I've been giving speeches that focused on three priorities: education, health care and a strong economy.

And people used to say to me, even a few years ago, why are you talking about students and patients ... why don't you give a business speech?

Not anymore.

Because building the best workforce so we can attract the best jobs ... delivering better health in a more efficient way ... building a strong economy by ensuring we have a competitive business environment and modern public services ... this agenda is not only the government's agenda ... it is the business agenda.

That's reflected in report after report from business leaders.

From Performance and Potential, a report from the Conference Board of Canada: "Strengthen our health care system and rebuild our infrastructure."

From Ontario: The Land of Opportunity, the paper prepared for the recent economic summit hosted by the Chamber of Commerce: "Raise the quality of the labour force and invest in R and D."

From the TD Bank's 2030 Vision: "Support post-secondary education and do a better job of integrating immigrants into our workforce."

From Manufacturing 20/20, a forward-looking plan from Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters: "Build education and skills for the future."

And from your own board's pre-budget submission to our government: "Invest in infrastructure, especially in this city."

We stand, you and I, on common ground.

And it is on this common ground that we can build the best place in North America to live -- and do business.

We have so much going for us here in Ontario.

Our people are hard working and highly principled.

Our population is diverse but united.

Our businesses and workers, engaged in enterprises ranging from autos to agriculture, often lead the world.

Our natural resources -- and natural beauty -- are unparalleled.

It's no wonder that so few leave Ontario -- and so many arrive.

And yet there is so much more we can and should be.

I believe we can fulfill Ontario's enormous potential by ensuring each Ontarian can fulfill his or her potential.

That's what our plan is all about.

It's a plan to strengthen our greatest competitive advantage -- our people.

This morning, I'm proud to release the first in a series of progress reports on our plan.

Copies are at your tables.

It spells out the results we want most for Ontarians and the progress we're making on achieving those results.

It spells out why those results are so important to our future.

The first is the education and training of our people.

The best way to attract investment, and create high-wage jobs that last is to build the best-educated, most highly skilled, most productive workforce in North America.

The second is the health of our people.

Health care costs are rising at a rate of about eight per cent per year.

And the real wave of demand is just beginning, as the baby boom retires and becomes a patient boom.

We must reform our approach to health care so we can respond in a caring and cost-efficient way.

Jurisdictions across the western world, regardless of their system of health care, are grappling with the same challenge.

Those who meet it head on will not only be more compassionate -- they'll be more competitive.

And the third is the building of a strong and prosperous economy.

Each of us has a role to play.

And each of us has a responsibility to have our own respective houses in order, so we're strong enough to do our part.

Government, for example, has to become more focused and efficient.

It must be on a firm fiscal footing so it can finance the job.

These priorities represent the common ground on which we can build together.

I sought the privilege of serving as Premier because I felt all three of these were being neglected.

And I can report that, after one year in office, we have made significant progress.

We have stopped the slide.

But there is a big difference between stopping the slide and securing the future.

So we have work to do.

And we want to do it, together, with you.

I believe the most important thing we can do for our future is to deliver high-quality public education.

Tomorrow's workforce is today's student body.

And, to put it bluntly: today's student body is ailing.

Half of our kids are struggling to learn to read, write and do math at a high level.

Province-wide testing in 2002-03 indicated that just 56 per cent of Grade 6 English-language students met the provincial standard in reading.

Just 54 per cent met the standard in writing.

And 53 per cent met the standard in math.

We're working to turn this situation around.

We're working to deliver excellence in public education.

The result we most want to achieve in education is higher student achievement in reading, writing and math -- as evidenced by higher test scores.

That's because we know that these skills are the foundation for future success in school.

And we know that students that do well in these early years are far more likely to complete high school and further their education.

It's key to another result we're working to achieve: a higher high school graduation rate.

To achieve these goals, we are putting in place a series of strategies, from smaller class sizes to improved teacher training to expanded intervention programs.

Already, in year one, we have reduced class sizes in the early grades in more than 1,300 schools.

We've done that by hiring 1,100 new teachers.

We've placed lead teachers in literacy and numeracy -- trained in best practices -- in each elementary school.

And we are expanding the number of turnaround teams -- experts who are sent into struggling schools.

This year, we have increased funding for public education by $854 million.

We've asked former Premier Bob Rae to propose an overhaul of our post-secondary education system.

I know we all eagerly await his recommendations.

I trust that we all see the restoration of higher education as key to our future.

And I urge all of us -- business, labour, academia and government -- to forge a partnership to support that goal.

Education and training must extend beyond the traditional classroom.

That's why we're expanding the number of apprenticeships offered in Ontario.

And we've set up a fund -- in the key automotive sector -- to help train our workers for the next generation of automotive technology, the next generation of jobs.

These are investments in our future prosperity.

We need your help.

We need you to embrace apprenticeships and co-op programs.

Bring students into your workplaces.

Get them excited about what the future can hold.

Tell them that opportunity comes to those who stay in school.

Be a mentor, an inspiration.

Your business will profit it from it.

Your province will prosper because of it.

Work with us to develop internships for internationally trained business people and professionals.

This city's diversity can be our greatest strength.

We speak every language, understand every culture, have contacts in every market in the world -- let's tap into that unlimited potential, together.

Let's turn to the health of our people.

I agree with those in the business community who say it's our duty to make sure we maintain affordable and reliable health care.

And I certainly share their concern over rising health costs.

They do threaten our ability to invest in the things that ensure future prosperity: education and training, research and development, transportation and other forms of infrastructure.

But I don't agree with those who suggest the solution is for government to offload its responsibility for health care to the private sector.

I believe that's bad social policy.

Medicare is integral to Canadians' values.

And I believe that would be disastrous economic policy.

It would mean massively higher business costs.

Unions would demand employers pick up the tab for purely private health insurance because their members would demand it.

Business would have to consider paying that tab because competition for the best workers is fierce.

If you doubt this downloading would mean higher business costs, just look south.

The fastest-growing business cost in the U.S. today is the soaring cost of health care.

In 2002-03, U.S. premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose by 13.9 per cent, the third consecutive double-digit increase.

That doesn't mean we can't learn a thing or two from other jurisdictions, including the U.S.

And it certainly doesn't mean we can settle for the status quo -- not by a long shot.

It does mean we need to save medicare, not by scrapping it, but by reforming it.

We are working to shift the focus of our system towards keeping as many Ontarians as healthy as possible, so they require less care in the long run.

That means encouraging healthier lifestyles, as well as improving things such as water quality, which is why we've hired more water inspectors.

It means improving other determinants of health, including economic status.

Which is one reason why we've increased, for the first time in a decade, the minimum wage and rates for welfare and disability.

It's one reason why we've just introduced legislation to make our province truly accessible to the 1.5 million Ontarians with a disability.

We're working to reshape the current health care system so we deliver more care in the community and at home, reducing the pressure on hospitals, which provide the most expensive form of care.

The result we're most focused on in health care is shorter wait times for key medical services: MRIs and CT scans, cataract and cardiac procedures, joint replacements and cancer care.

Already, in our first year, we've opened the first three of nine new and expanded MRIs, provided funding for the hiring of new full-time nurses, and introduced a Budget that will provide home care to 21,000 more people this year.

We're changing things so we can deliver better results.

We're not going to bail out hospital deficits year after year after year -- at the expense of improvements to home care.

And when it comes to our doctors, we're not simply going to pour money into the status quo -- into a system that has left thousands of Ontarians without a family doctor.

We've worked on an agreement with the province's doctors that, if ratified, will deliver real, positive change.

Change that will provide more Ontarians with more access to quality, front-line care ... that will create more family health teams of health care professionals, working together ... that will give us better results.

We invite you to work with us.

Do what you can to help your employees -- and your members -- stay healthy by promoting nutrition, exercise and early detection of potential problems.

Take stress in the workplace seriously.

Inform your employees.

That will make your businesses more productive.

It will also help make our economy more prosperous.

Which brings me to our third key priority: the need for each of us to do our part to build a strong economy.

Let's look at an obvious example of our need to work together, to build on common ground -- one that didn't seem so obvious even a decade ago.

The most valuable resource in the world today isn't silver or gold, or nickel or lumber.

The most valuable resource in the world today ... is an idea.

But even the best idea is only a raw material.

It takes all of us, working together, to develop it into jobs and prosperity.

Our universities should be mining ideas.

Business and labour should be working with our universities to commercialize those ideas, to turn them into viable, innovative products.

And we all have a role in selling those products to the world, in telling the success story.

Government's job is to ensure this common ground is fertile ground, by investing in state-of-the-art research.

I recently announced that we're committing at least $300 million over the next four years for equipment and other research infrastructure.

And this amount will be matched by another $450 million from the federal government and other partners.

To bring advances to market, last year's Budget committed $27 million over four years to establish a new Ontario Research Commercialization Program, to test, prototype and turn new ideas into commercial realities.

We must ensure a reliable supply of energy.

Our predecessors mismanaged the sector to the point where little new supply was built in the past ten years.

Nuclear generation was allowed to become less and less efficient, and the price of electricity did not reflect the cost of production.

We believe it's critical to our future prosperity to upgrade our existing nuclear plants and replace our aging coal plants.

We have moved to realistic pricing of electricity.

Work is underway on nuclear retrofits.

And we're heartened by the huge expression of interest from the private sector in generation projects.

Again, we need your help.

Join us in developing a culture of conservation.

One of the easiest ways to improve your bottom line is to save electricity.

It's also the cheapest way I can think of to generate the electricity our province needs.

Our economy also depends on making sure its engine -- the city of Toronto -- is firing on all cylinders.

That's why we have taken action on a new deal for Toronto by announcing a joint review of the City of Toronto Act.

I want to commend the Board of Trade for the tremendous work it's done to help make this happen.

There are basically three goals for this review:

  • The first is to make the City of Toronto more fiscally sustainable, autonomous and accountable

  • The second is to ensure it has the tools it needs to thrive in the global economy, and

  • The third is to reshape the relationship between Ontario and Toronto, so it's a mature, productive partnership.

We have committed two cents of the existing gas tax for public transit, starting with one cent this fall.

We are working to repair our infrastructure, investing more than $3.3 billion this year to fix our roads, highways and bridges, create jobs and keep our economy moving.

We need to do a little construction work within government, too.

We need to modernize government, so that it:

  • Invests in Ontario's future prosperity, not just present day consumption

  • Delivers modern, efficient public services and

  • Achieves a sustainable fiscal position that can support these investments and services over the long-term.

We inherited a structural deficit of $5.5 billion.

We've chosen to responsibly and prudently eliminate it over the course of our mandate.

We've set tough fiscal targets, and we will need your support as we meet them.

It's not just a matter of balancing the Budget for the sake of balancing the Budget.

It's a matter of being able to pay for the results I've talked about today -- results that will strengthen our greatest competitive advantage: our people.

The people who drive your businesses.

The people who build this great province.

These are the priorities: success for students, better health and a strong economy.

I want to conclude with a few stats that put these into perspective:

There are 3.7 million of us Ontarians born between 1946 and 1965.

That's 44 per cent of workforce.

They're the baby boomers.

And they're getting set to retire.

As they age, they'll stop generating a massive amount of wealth -- and start consuming a massive amount of health care.

In the 1960s, when we invented many of our social programs, there were almost eight people working for every senior.

Today, there are five.

By the year 2030, there will be three.

We had better make sure those three -- kids in school today -- are educated and trained to their maximum potential.

We must do all we can to ensure they have access to good, high-wage jobs.

We must make sure the health care that keeps us strong is as modern as the challenges the system will face.

We must make sure our economy is strong and prosperous.

We can do these things, my friends and colleagues, but only if we work together.

We have to take this new consensus, this common ground, and build on it ... together ...

If we work together, we really can do anything ...

We can ensure our students succeed, that we build a workforce that attracts the most investment and the best jobs ...

We can deliver better health for our people, sustain our compassion and sharpen the competitive edge that is medicare ...

We can build an economy that's competitive, strong and prosperous ...

Together, we can ensure this city assumes its place as a world leader ... this province assumes its place as the best place in the world to live and do business ... and that this generation assumes its responsibility to the next generation ...

We can build a quality of life that's truly second-to-none.

Thank you.

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