Ontario Good Roads Association And Rural Ontario Municipalities Association
We're here to listen, to learn, to share ideas and, above all, to thank you.
For your leadership, for building up your communities, for everything you do to support the extraordinary quality of life we enjoy here in Ontario -- the greatest province in the best country in the world.
You know, for a lot of us living in the city, you don't have to go that far back in your family to find a connection to rural Ontario.
My dad's family farmed in the Ottawa Valley.
We're from Osceola, which if you don't know it, is a suburb of Cobden.
These are challenging times.
Ontario, like Canada, like the rest of the world -- is caught in a recession.
It's affecting all our communities: all our families, all of us.
While it's true that our financial institutions are now recognized as being the strongest in the world, and while it's also true that there really is no better place than Canada to seek shelter in this global economic storm, that's just not much consolation to you if you're one of the many Ontario families that's been hurt by job loss.
Our families are anxious.
And while you and I can't stop a global recession, we need to do everything we can to help our people get through this and come out stronger.
That means we'll have to work more closely together than ever before.
And as we work together, we can take our inspiration from the people we serve -- the people of Ontario.
Ontarians are hardy, hard-working, resilient and resourceful.
Ontarians have never allowed any challenge, no matter how great, to get in the way of making progress for our children and grandchildren.
A tough challenge can slow us down for a while, but our history has shown: We just keep going and getting stronger.
I talked a moment ago about my family roots in the Ottawa Valley.
My family settled there in the 1840s.
To begin, there were no schools, no healthcare and no government supports.
It was a hard existence.
But my family, like all Ontario families, just kept going and getting stronger.
With quiet, relentless determination, generation after generation of Ontarians kept building up our province, through good times and bad.
So, we can be absolutely confident our people are going to get through these tough times, too.
But it's not enough just to get through today.
It's about building for the future, as well.
And I'm pleased to see that you are already all over this.
You're thinking long-term.
The other night I was reading an insightful editorial written by David, in Milestones, your Good Roads magazine.
It was about climate change.
Specifically, he was writing about the challenge that heavier snow and rainstorms pose for the people who build and maintain roads.
It's a short-term challenge, but what David pointed out is that, to address it, we need long-term solutions.
I think we all recognize that the energy sources we have been relying on are simply no longer sustainable -- for our environment or our budgets.
David finishes his editorial by telling us we all need to do more on climate change.
Because with the way we've been polluting our air with the rise in greenhouse gas emissions, the status quo isn't environmentally sustainable.
Ontarians get this.
That's why in all our communities, families and businesses are becoming more energy efficient.
It's why we're phasing out coal-fired electricity in Ontario.
And it's why we've been working on a plan with California and other states and Quebec to reduce our carbon emissions.
But the point I really want to make is this:
There's a huge opportunity in the fight against climate change.
It's the opportunity to create jobs and build a stronger economy.
It's the opportunity to do well for ourselves and good for our planet at the same time.
Let me give you an example.
The other day I visited a dairy farm in Lindsay.
Our government is partnering with the farmers there to help them build a generator to turn the manure from 600 cows into clean, green electricity for 400 homes.
And that means jobs: jobs building and operating that new generator.
Now, that's a great idea.
And we're convinced that thousands of Ontarians want to get in on the act by investing in wind turbines, solar panels and biomass projects.
And that brings me to our new Green Energy Act.
It has two main components.
First, it will make it easier to bring renewable energy projects to life.
Our intention is to unleash a torrent of new, green energy and create more than 50,000 jobs over the next three years.
We're talking about jobs in manufacturing and assembly, building, service and installation, engineering, trucking, and in the financial sector.
I'm talking about jobs for electricians, inspectors, architects, and people who design computer software and hardware -- and jobs for farmers.
The second focus of the act is to create a culture of conservation -- one where we go about our daily lives using less energy, whether it's in our homes, businesses, schools, or industrial operations.
We have made good progress on that score, but we need to do more.
Yes, this will mean lower emissions in the fight against climate change.
But it also means jobs.
Jobs for everyone from architects who can design more efficient homes and buildings and retrofit existing ones, to contractors and labourers who can upgrade insulation, windows and furnaces.
And that's just a quick glance.
By seizing these new green opportunities, we are going to make our economy stronger.
Of course, when it comes to building a strong economy, Ontarians have never stopped working.
Together, during the past five years, we have made real gains:
- We have created a more highly skilled and educated workforce.
- We have new government-business partnerships which have created thousands of new jobs.
- We have lower business taxes and massive investments in innovation and infrastructure.
- We are continuing to strengthen our communities by uploading responsibilities that, in fairness, should be ours in provincial government and not yours.
Our gains remain a strong foundation for future growth.
Our Green Energy Act will build on this foundation.
So will our Budget.
Our Budget will do what Ontarians want done.
We will respond to today's challenges and we will build for the future.
That means continuing to stimulate the economy.
I say "continuing" because we have been making massive investments in infrastructure for some time now.
But you know that.
In November of last year, we invested $1.1 billion in municipal infrastructure.
All told, we invested about $10 billion in infrastructure last year.
And just 10 days ago, together with the federal government, we invested another $1 billion in infrastructure projects in our smaller communities.
Today in Ontario, there are hundreds of construction projects underway -- creating thousands and thousands of jobs.
All of this work will help us in the short term.
But it will take more than stimulus, more than infrastructure, to grow stronger for the long term.
Building an Ontario that will compete and win in the post-recession world, building a powerful economy, will take time -- and it's going to take all of us working together.
Even all three levels of government working together can't build a powerful economy on our own.
Neither can our businesses do it on their own.
Nor can our workers.
But working together, we can build an economy that makes the world sit up and take notice.
Our businesses need to catch up to the competition by investing more in R&D and new technologies.
Our government can and must help here.
And we've got to help our workers further upgrade their skills.
We need a workforce that won't get pushed around by globalization.
That starts by making sure, at a minimum; our kids -- all our kids -- finish high school and go beyond.
Finally, you and I in government have got to admit we have too many rules and regulations in place that make Ontario uncompetitive.
We've started to make changes at Queen's Park to make our government faster and friendlier.
We've put a six-month time limit on environmental assessments for public transit.
Now we'll do much the same for renewable energy projects by establishing a new approval process through our Green Energy Act.
And there is more to come.
You and I need to understand and accept:
We have a vital role to play in building a powerful economy that creates the jobs and supports the public services our families need.
So, I'm asking you to do what I am doing:
Carefully review the red tape we've built up over decades of government.
Understand its cumulative impact on your community's competitiveness when it comes to attracting investment.
Find the barriers standing in the way of new jobs for your families.
And start breaking down those barriers.
Always protect public safety, the environment, and quality of life.
Having secured those, be strong in standing up for jobs for your families.
My friends, this global recession calls upon the very best we have to offer.
And, again, let's draw our inspiration from the people we represent.
We're not fighting for just any group of people.
We're not standing up for just any place.
We're standing up for Ontario.
We're fighting for Ontarians.
And the people of Ontario never give up, no matter what.
We just keep going.
And getting stronger.