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Remarks By Dalton McGuinty, Premier Of Ontario At The London Chamber of Commerce

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Remarks By Dalton McGuinty, Premier Of Ontario At The London Chamber of Commerce

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Office of the Premier

Thank-you Jack and Gerry both for giving me this opportunity to speak with you and to your members gathered here today.

I want to begin by thanking the London Chamber of Commerce, to the executive for those who assume the responsibility of leadership, to all the members present and through you to all your extended body of members.

I want to thank you for the work you do. I want to thank-you for the risks you take. Thank-you for your entrepreneurialism. Thank-you for the jobs you do, thank-you for the families you hereby support and thank-you for the immeasurable contribution you make to the high quality of life we enjoy here in Ontario, the greatest province in the best country in the world.

I'm also really honoured to be joined by my colleagues who were introduced to you a moment ago here at the head table - Chris and Deb and Khalil. I want you to know that you couldn't wish for a harder working group of local representatives than these members.

I'm not sure there has ever been a period in our history when there has been more cynicism felt for politics, political institutions and the politicians themselves.

But politics for me and my team remains a noble calling. It's one of the best ways that I know of by which we can come together and overcome challenges that are simply too big for us to overcome on our own.

Terri and I are raising four kids. We couldn't build a school and staff it with competent teachers on our own.

My mom recently fell down the stairs and broke her hip and more recently she had to have a knee replaced. We couldn't in my family build a hospital and staff it with doctors and nurses and sophisticated medical technology on our own.

We can't tackle a global challenge - climate change - on our own.

We can't put out a house fire on our own.

We can't patrol our streets and make sure they are secure and safe on our own.

I think inherently we have always understood that we are at our very best when we come together and build together and politics is a simple means by which we can accomplish those noble objectives.

Since our government was re-elected your London team has been nothing less than relentless when it comes to promoting this city's interests at Queen's park.

They've been determined to tell me at every opportunity about the innovative new businesses that have been finding success here and they have been equally forthright as well about the concerns Londoners feel when it comes to Ontario's economy.

Even though the unemployment rate today in Ontario is lower than it was five years ago and even though we have 450,000 more jobs today, meaning Ontario alone has created has created 1/3 of all new Canadian jobs since 2003.

The truth is our economy is challenged. And while we can't control the high dollar, the price of oil or the sluggishness of the U.S. economy, we are hardly helpless.

We are firmly seizing the levers that are under our control.

That's what our five-point plan for the economy is all about.

It's a plan to ensure Ontario keeps moving forward, to ensure Ontarians keep moving forward together.

First off we are cutting taxes to reduce the cost of doing business.

Three years ago we committed, for example, to eliminating capital taxes by 2010.

Well we've accelerated that plan by completely eliminating those taxes for our manufacturers and resource industries retroactive to January 2007, and we've cut them by 21% retroactively to 2007, January for everyone else.

Now someone suggested that all we need do is cut taxes and to do so dramatically.

That approach has always had a certain seductive appeal to it.

But in a complex global economy it takes more, quite a bit more, than just tax cuts to compete and win.

And besides, in comparison to the competition, I mean our real competition, the Great Lakes states, our combined federal-provincial corporate incomes taxes are 7% lower.

So here's the second part of our plan. We are making the largest investment ever in Ontario's infrastructure - $60 billion over 10 years.

Here in London, that means a new acute and ambulatory care facility at St. Joe's and more than 60 workers on the construction site every day.

It means widening highway 401 from highway 402 to Wellington Road.

It means fixing bridges, ramps, traffic signals and other improvements at the Highbury interchange.

It means over a $125 million for new space and equipment at Fanshawe and Western.

These and other investments have helped create over 400 jobs and over the long term will enhance this community's productivity.

Third we are working with business to partner in key sectors: this whole notion of understanding we are at our best when we work together.

So far we've landed $8 billion in new investment and we're fighting for more.

Just this morning I visited Diamond Aircraft here in London with my colleagues.

About two years ago, we provided Diamond with $10 million loan as a part our government's advanced manufacturing investment strategy.

The money is being used to develop and manufacture a single engine, five seat jet aircraft.

Diamond invested more than $100 million in that project.

There were 350 jobs at Diamond when I visited two years ago. This morning I was told there are over 700.

That's great news for London and for London families.

And just so you understand what a gem, so to speak, Diamond is, you can't acquire your wings in the U.S. air force unless you've been trained on a Diamond aircraft. That's very, very impressive.

Fourth, we are all over the innovation agenda. Because we know if we can provide the innovative goods and services the world needs, then the world will beat a path to our door.

To spur innovation on, we've just announced that Ontario will be a tax-free jurisdiction for any new start-ups commercializing Canadian research.

So if you take and idea coming out of any Canadian college, university or research institute and turn it into a business during the course of the next ten years, whether your profit is $1 or $1 billion, you will pay zero by way of corporate incomes taxes.

I was thinking, for example, that we provided some funding to Western to research further into biofuels to find a way to make energy out of corn husks and manure, for example.

If somebody was to remove that ultimately from the university to commercialize that they will pay zero by way of corporate income taxes over the course of the next 10 years.

There are so many great innovation stories in Ontario.

Yesterday I was in Vaughan. In Vaughan there's a business that's just starting up called 6N Silicon.

They have found a way to take impure silicon, essentially, and turn it into solar grade silicon; it's the fundamental element that you need to build solar panels.

At the time of the announcement there was a fellow there who'd come from China representing the largest producer of solar panels in the world.

So this business is really going to take off.

But here is an interesting dimension to all of this.

They had about 25 employees there for the announcement. I went up and shook hands with the manager and I said hands up all the workers here who used to work in the auto sector.

Out of the 25 all 25 raised their hands. So it's hard sometimes to understand what's happening in the economy if all we do is read headlines.

But there is something very positive and successful in terms of the Ontario economy's transition.

Fifth and finally we are investing in our people.

This had been my top priority from day one and we're getting results.

We now have smaller classes, higher test scores and higher graduation rates.

10,000 more young people are now graduating from high school than before; they used to drop out.

Think about it - a knowledge economy - dropping out and now we are getting 10,000 more to graduate.

We have 50,000 more young people in our apprenticeship programs and 100,000 more in our colleges and universities.

You and I now enjoy a distinction which is something I love to brag about when I'm travelling abroad: We have the highest rate of post-secondary education in the western world. Now that is a competitive edge worth honing and worth owning.

Here's the strange thing about the Ontario economy - we have 100,000 jobs right now that we can't fill and many of those require high skills.

That's where our new Second Career strategy comes in.

It's the most ambitious plan of its kind in Canada.

We are investing $355 million to help 20,000 people who've been laid off find new careers.

We'll help you with tuition, books, living expenses and other costs toward retraining for anywhere from 6 months to two years.

We'll cover up to $28,000 of your costs.

We want you to get the skills you need to fill the jobs that are out there; like in the skilled services sector or in advanced manufacturing or in financial services or in pharmaceuticals or in digital media or in information and communication technology or, in the not to distant future, once again, in the auto sector.

Sure the auto sector is going through a tough time now in North America but keep a couple things in mind.

Even in a bad year, Americans and Canadians buy 15 million cars.

Ontario is the number one auto producer in North America.

We've enjoyed that distinction now for four years running and we have every intention of continuing to take an unfair share of the North American business.

The industry will turn around and it will produce more fuel efficient cars.

Honda in Ontario has ramped up production of its Civic. The new Toyota plant in Woodstock will start production later this year and that alone is 2,000 direct jobs.

Last week, I met together with the premiers in Quebec and we had, we invited the Governor of the Bank of Canada, Mark Carney, to come in and chat with us.

He told me, among other things, that 83% of all our new jobs pay more than manufacturing. I'm going to repeat that. 83% of all our new jobs pay more than manufacturing.

While we were at that conference, the premiers and I made an important step, what I think is an important step forward on the issue of labour mobility in Canada.

12 years ago the then premiers entered into an agreement on internal trade and we have been struggling to move forward with this.

Well now we've agreed that Canadian workers recognized and credentialed in any one province will, as of April 2009, be able to work in any other province.

This will undoubtedly create some concerns about different standards for training in different parts of Canada.

But my concern, folks, isn't so much the teacher in BC, the nurse in Quebec as it is the manufacturer in China or the auto assembly plant in Mexico.

It is time for us as a nation to reach a certain level of maturity, I would argue, to understand that we are in this together.

We're only 32 or 33 million. There are 1.3 billion in China, there are 1.1 billion in India and if we are going to successfully assert ourselves in a highly competitive global economy then we've got to hang tight.

We've got to do what we can to remove internal trade barriers,

We're working hard here in Ontario with Ontarians to move this economy forward but we could go further and faster if the federal government took the brakes off our economy.

I'll tell you what I'm talking about. Every year, Ottawa collects $20 billion from Ontario for distribution to the rest of the country.

That made great sense some time ago when other provinces needed the programs and the services that helped create prosperity and needed a little help getting there.

It's only a matter of fairness. But it doesn't make sense today because today those provinces are doing better, much better.

They are quite a bit stronger.

And that's great news or at least it should be for all Canadians.

But it's not for Ontarians because rain or shine, no matter what, the federal government extracts over 3% of Ontario's GDP from our economy every year to redistribute across the country.

In fact, right now, despite the energy boom in other parts of the country, the federal government today takes more out of Ontario for redistribution to other provinces than ever before in Canadian history.

The system is so badly broken that every time the price of oil goes up, which means Ontarians pay more at the pumps, we have to pay more to the federal government for distribution to the rest of the country.

It's been said that if the rest of the country keeps getting richer, Ontario could end up receiving equalization by 2010.

Well get this, if we did in fact qualify for equalization, do you know where the money would come from?

From us, out of the $20 billion we send to the federal government annually.

Now I've raised these issues with three successive Prime Ministers and I'm hardly the first Ontario Premier to point this out.

In my generation alone, these kinds of concerns have been raised by Premiers Robarts, Davis, Peterson, Rae and Harris.

Clearly our financial relationship with Ottawa has never been perfect but now it's clearly broken and holding back Ontario.

More and more Ontarians are saying the same.

I've heard from leaders from across Ontario from all sectors, including your Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

This issue transcends partisanship. It calls us together for the sake of our shared well-being, the well-being of our province, the well-being of our businesses, the well-being of our families.

For the long-term benefit of Canada, we in Ontario need to keep more of our own resources so we can invest more in our future.

There is something else we can do to help Ontario grow stronger: make sure Ontario workers get a fair shake when it comes to employment insurance.

Today workers in Ontario who lose their job get $4,000 less to support their family than workers in other provinces.

That's not fair.

They need that $4,000 just as much as the others to make ends meet, to pay for groceries, to pay their mortgage while they are trying to find another job.

Friends, it is human nature for us to focus on work left undone and challenges yet to be overcome.

In the grand scheme of things, you and I enjoy a quality of life and a standard of living that is truly exceptional in comparison to so many other places on this planet that we share with billions of others.

Our intention in our government is to continue to move forward.

I believe that Ontario has been commissioned by history to lead. That is not an option for us. It's not as if we have a choice.

Our responsibility is to continue to lead but in order to continue to do that, to continue to move forward, we need to keep a bit more of our own resources, our own wealth that we are generating here.

We need to stand together on these issues.

We need a fair deal from the federal government for Ontarians and I think we can take a lesson from other provinces here.

You know sometimes when I talk about some of these kinds of issues some Ontarians grow a little bit uncomfortable.

I understand that to a certain extent. I grew up in a family of 10 kids. I was the oldest boy. My responsibility in the eyes of my parents could be summed up in one word - compliance.

Just be quiet and set a good example.

You can see I've got to look after the little ones here.

Maybe there is a little bit of that to us here in Ontario. I think we can take a lesson from other provinces.

When their interests are threatened, if for example the federal finance minister were to have openly discouraged investment in their province as he did in ours, they would close ranks and defend their province's interests so quickly it would make your heads spin.

My friends it is time to stand up for our province, time to stand up for Ontario.

We are not looking for any special things.

We're just looking for a fair deal.

We should never be shy about telling people why we are pressing a case for fairness.

We simply want to build a stronger Ontario for a stronger Canada.

Thank-you very much.