Strengthening Ontario's Economic Advantage
2005 Throne Speech Focuses On Prosperity For People
QUEEN'S PARK -- Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says his government is working with Ontarians to strengthen the province's economic advantage.
"Everything -- from the ability of our businesses to compete to our capacity to fund a caring society to the opportunities available to our children -- depends on Ontario's prosperity," Premier McGuinty said. "That's why we're working with Ontarians to strengthen Ontario's economic advantage by strengthening the education and skills of our people, improving the health of our people, fostering innovation, leveraging our diversity and getting the fundamentals right."
The Premier made his comments after the Honourable James K. Bartleman, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, presented a Speech from the Throne, opening the Second Session of the 38 th Parliament of Ontario.
The speech, delivered as the McGuinty government approaches the midway point of its first four-year term, shows that Ontarians have achieved a remarkable turnaround in a number of priority areas.
"We're making progress. Now it's time to accelerate it," said Premier McGuinty.
The speech highlights both the results achieved to date and upcoming initiatives:
Strengthening the Education and Skills of Our People: Smaller class sizes in the early grades and higher test scores in our schools will be followed by new legislation that would make it mandatory for young people to keep learning, in a classroom, apprenticeship or workplace training program, until age 18, instead of being allowed to drop out at age 16. Also, a new alternative high school diploma will recognize the importance of learning a skill or trade. The government is implementing its "Reaching Higher" plan for postsecondary education, which will invest $6.2 billion more in universities and colleges, apprenticeships and skills programs. The government is also carrying out Best Start, which will equip Ontario's youngest learners to begin school.
Improving the Health of Our People: Dramatic increases in the number of CT scans, cancer surgeries, cataract surgeries, cardiac procedures, hip and knee replacements and MRI scans will continue to produce shorter wait times for patients. The ongoing creation of Family Health Teams, featuring doctors working alongside other health professionals, will continue to improve care for families.
The government is also placing a major emphasis on protecting Ontarians health by investing in public health, combating smoking, requiring daily physical activity in our grade schools, introducing legislation to protect drinking water and replacing coal-fired electricity generation that contributes to smog.
Innovation for the 21st Century: To ensure Ontario is the first to discover new ideas, turn them into products and services and market them to the world, the government is bolstering research and development while making strategic investments in innovation in key sectors of Ontario's economy. These investments include the auto sector, which has announced $4.5 billion worth of new investment in Ontario over the past two years; the agri-food sector, which has benefited from support for beef farmers hurt by a U.S. ban on Canadian beef, and from the government's plan to require that gas include ethanol; and the forestry sector, which is receiving more than $680 million from the province to help modernize for the 21st century.
Leveraging our Diversity: To leverage Ontario's diversity into jobs and investment by attracting the best and the brightest from around the world, and helping them settle in and fully integrate into the economy, the government is expanding training programs and English-as-a-second language instruction. Funding is available because of the Premier's campaign to narrow the $23-billion gap between what Ontarians contribute to the federal government and what they get back in programs and services. Ontario will ensure timely access to professions and trades for qualified professionals trained outside of Canada by ensuring regulatory bodies create a fair and transparent registration and appeals process. And Ontario's drive to tell its diversity story to the world will include the Premier's trade mission to China next month.
Getting the Fundamentals Right: Ontarians have worked to reduce the provincial deficit from $5.6 billion to $1.6 billion. The province has launched a five-year $30-billion infrastructure investment plan, including roads, public transit, hospitals and other infrastructure. In just two years, the government has brought more than 2,200 megawatts on line, and projects that will deliver another 9,000 megawatts have been advanced as part of our plan to deliver a reliable supply of clean energy at a reasonable cost. Consumers can look forward to getting smart meters that will help them save money by telling them when they can pay less. The government will offer Ontarians the first public service money-back-guarantee: it is planning to give you your money back if a birth certificate ordered on-line is not delivered within 15 days. The government's drive to form effective partnerships with the private sector and other levels of government includes less paperwork for small business, continuing gas tax money for public transit, 1,000 more police officers on the street, introduction of a new City of Toronto Act and legislation that would treat all municipalities with respect.
"The positive results we have seen over the past two years -- from higher test scores in our schools to shorter wait times in our hospitals to over 193,000 new jobs -- are the product of Ontarians working hard, working well and working together," the speech said. "Now is the time to accelerate this progress. Now is the time to strengthen Ontario's economic advantage," the Premier added.